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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Retiring Wieland has left his imprint on church, community

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rev. Bill Wieland relaxes at this desk in the midst of packing his office at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Greencastle. Sunday will be his last day in the local pulpit after more than 23 years. [Order this photo]
With memories at every turn and cartons of books and mementoes all around him, Rev. Bill Wieland was trying to convert his office of the past quarter-century into a pile of manageable boxes Wednesday afternoon.

It was not easy. Not the packing or the reminiscing. Wieland finally had to clear a path to the couch to sit down and talk.

Sunday will be his last day as rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Greencastle after 23-1/2 years. A 3-5 p.m. public reception is scheduled in his honor in the Great Hall of the Green Center for the Performing Arts at DePauw University.

Wieland caught his breath and looked around his office in the house one door west of the church on East Seminary Street. The enormity of the packing and the book handling made him stop to muse that the room surprisingly had no bookshelves when he moved into it in December 1987 (the third Sunday of Advent, to be exact, was the first time he presided locally).

His spartan but comfortable office was once the living room of that humble home. There were no bookshelves, so Paul Black built him some, floor to ceiling. He needed a little privacy, so a partition was erected. And now, all that necessary remodeling has produced a predicament. His favorite old desk "has been made a captive" thanks to the added wall and other work over the years.

"That desk has been everywhere with me," Wieland said. "I don't think it will be going with me this time."

Wieland even had the desk while he taught at Wabash College and left it in the care of a friend when he went off to the seminary.

"It's a nice, old desk," he added, recalling that he bought the wooden piece (possibly cherry or a similar wood) from an insurance company in Bloomington during the 1960s when everyone was into heavy metal.

Like Wieland, that desk has aged rather gracefully with a few nicks here and there from prior moves and telltale signs of wear around the handles.

He's tried every which way to navigate it through the doorway, but this side of enlisting the legendary judgment of King Solomon and cutting the desk in two, that thing is staying put.

"The interim (rector) will probably use it," Wieland offered. "The new person will probably bring a desk along or get a new one. So it looks like the tale of the desk is finished."

And like that cherished old desk, Bill Wieland is leaving part of himself behind at St. Andrew's, albeit spiritually and not physically.

He may be succeeded as rector but never replaced, his congregation would attest. Look for an interim this summer and a fulltime successor in 18 months to two years.

But with 46 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, winding down really isn't necessarily in Rev. Wieland's near future.

"That's the reason I don't feel so footloose and fancy free. People say, 'Oh, you're going to retire ...' But there's plenty to do. I am already subbing at St. John's in Crawfordsville on July 10. So it would appear I have about a month off before I preside and preach again."

Sunday, Rev. Wieland's final day at St. Andrew's, is also the Day of Pentecost, a major holiday in the church.

The service will feature the Holy Eucharist, a celebration of the engulfing of the church by the Holy Spirit, special music and special effects (symbolically depicting the "Great Noise" and "The Tongues of Fire").

A liturgy for the end of the pastoral relationship will be shared with the congregation and a representative of the bishop, Chief Assistant and Canon to the Ordinary Rev. Bruce W. Gary, who will be in attendance.

Under Wieland's leadership, the St. Andrew's family rebuilt their lives and the congregation in the aftermath of the closing of the Greencastle IBM plant, recovered from a fire that severely damaged the sanctuary and destroyed the organ and embraced a doctrine that has made the church available to groups and individuals who might otherwise have nowhere elsewhere to go.

St. Andrew's, he said, cherishes its sense of hospitality. "We try to be hospitable to ourselves, hospitable to our neighbors and hospitable to strangers. Everyone is always welcome. That's what the church tries to do."

Because St. Andrew's -- and most of all Wieland -- goes the extra mile, there are now programs like the A-Way Home Shelter, Putnam County Habitat for Humanity, the Non-Food Pantry and Greencastle Emergency Ministries (GEM). They all have Wieland's fingerprints (along with others, of course) all over them.

"It is nice to see the majority of our congregation, in many different ways, rallying to support those visions," he summarized.

Along the way, Rev. Wieland has been a part of such other efforts locally as Cummins Mental Health Board, Greencastle Plan Commission, Putnam County Humane Society, Putnam RISE Weatherization Study Committee, the DePauw University Community Choir, Greencastle Kiwanis Club and Putnam County Playhouse.

The musical opportunities afforded by DePauw and the Playhouse have given Wieland an outlet beyond the pulpit for his booming bass voice. Undoubtedly we will see and hear more of him in years to come.

Wieland is particularly proud of being a part of creating the Greencastle Emergency Ministries group, which meets each Tuesday morning for coffee at the Swizzle Stick.

"We talk and laugh and pray together," the St. Andrew's rector said. "Not only has that been great support for us as colleagues but it helps us to do things together that reflect our several congregations as it goes beyond the collegial to the congregation."

GEM is essentially a latter-day incarnation of the Putnam County Ministerial Association, and the camaraderie shared by the group has resulted in, among other things, joint services for Thanksgiving and Good Friday.

"It's not just interdenominational," Wieland said. "We have become interfaith. And we have been ahead of some communities in that sense."

That was particularly important, he suggested, after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Wieland and others in the Greencastle group got together with representatives of the mosque in Plainfield to show solidarity and have stayed in contact with them through faith and fellowship.

"Those are the kinds of things that when you see them happen, you know you are making some progress and you know you are doing the things you need to do," he said.

In 2003 he was named the NAACP Citizen of the Year for helping to further such interfaith understanding. In the past, he also has served as DePauw Winter Term in Mission chaplain in January 1989 and won a Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant for a sabbatical to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon in 2003.

Yet having been there and done all that, there is no place Bill Wieland and wife Lucy would rather be than Greencastle.

"We're well situated here," he reasoned, "with lots of wonderful things to do. It has always been a great place to be."

The Wielands plan to stay in the same house they moved into when they arrived in Greencastle -- at 315 Greenwood Ave.

"It's known as the (Frances) Hickman House ... maybe some day it will be known as the Wieland House," he said.

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