Our History


Ridge United Methodist Church was formed on May 26, 1955 with 19 families interested in establishing a Methodist Church in Munster, Indiana.  Meetings were held in the Independence Park Community Hall in Munster.  On September 11, 1955, District Superintendent, Dr. Allen B. Rice presided over a quarterly conference and received 29 people into membership including the election of board officers. 

The first official Board Meeting was held September 14, 1955 at which time organization of Sunday School was discussed.  Sunday, September 25th was chosen as Sunday School Registration Day.

Members of nearby Methodist Churches served the congregation until October 16, 1955.  At that time, Rev. William Brown, a student at Garret Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, began serving as the supply Pastor. 

The Rev. Charles M. Blackmon was appointed in January 1956 by Bishop Richard Raines.  Rev. Blackmon conducted his first service on February 5, 1956. 

The meeting place of the church was moved to the Munster Town Hall in May 1956.  In September of that year, 4.7 acres of land were purchased on the corner of 35th Street and Columbia Avenue from the Bieker family.  The Northwest Indiana Conference made a grant of $10,000 and a loan in trust of $5,000 toward the purchase.

In October 1956, a parsonage was purchased at 7706 Forest Avenue in Munster. 

In October 1957, a capital campaign was launched to raise funds for a building.  The goal for the campaign was $30,000.  The total raised from 66 families.  In November 1958, the Building Committee selected Kenneth W. Williams of Kokomo, Indiana as architect to create a master plan for Ridge Methodist Church. 

Ridge Methodist Church was assisted by the Lansing Methodist Church through the use of their facilities.  Meetings, choir practices and dinners were held there until permanent facilities were completed. 

In December 1959, Ridge Methodist Church had grown sufficiently that it needed to move to a larger location.  The newly-built Burns Funeral Home at 8415 Calumet Avenue, Munster, Indiana made its facility available at no charge.  Sunday School continued to meet at the Town Hall.

Ground-breaking ceremonies for the for the first building were held on June 26, 1960.  On November 20, 1960, the cornerstone was laid.  The Fellowship Hall, offices, education wing and kitchen were constructed.  F.G. Crary and Son, Inc. of Hammond, Indiana was the builder.

The new Ridge Methodist Church is located at 8607 Columbia Avenue, Munster, Indiana.  The ultimate structure to be erected on this site.  The present building contains a fellowship hall with stage facilities, kitchen, offices and educational wing.  The grounds will be developed to afford opportunities for outdoor worship as well as recreation.  The setting of the church will be one of beauty and yet one of utility

The first service held in the new building was a Communion service on Friday, April 21, 1961.  The first Sunday service was held on April 23, 1961.  The church has grown form the original 29 members to 310 members as of August 1, 1961.  Dedication and consecration was held on Sunday, September 24, 1961 with Bishop Richard Raines preaching. 

In 1968, the United Methodist Church was created.

In July 1970, the parsonage on Forest Avenue was sold.  In August 1970,  a new parsonage was purchased at 9230 Foliage Lane, Munster. 

In May 1971, a Charge Conference was held to re-mortgage the church property.  After paying off the previous mortgage, the balance was used to renovate the fellowship hall into a more church-like room; change the heating in the education wing; enlarge the parking lot; and install entrance markers and landscaping. The renovated hall was consecrated on June 11, 1972, and the Rev. Donald LaSuer, District Superintendent, led the service. 

On July 29, 1981, a building committee was appointed with the task of building a sanctuary for Ridge United Methodist Church. A finance drive was held in the fall with the goal to raise mortgage funds over a three-year period. Associated Church Builders was selected as architect. In 1983 the church awarded the contract to F.G. Crary & Sons, Inc. to construct a new sanctuary and supporting facilities.  Construction began in May of 1983. 

On February 26, 1984, the Consecration service of the new facility was held with Bishop Ralph Alton presiding.  Cost for the new facility was slightly less than $398,000. 

In 1993, a new organ was purchased.  The pipe organ (which had originally come from the Indiana Harbor Methodist Church) was dismantled and given to St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in St. John, Indiana.  Ridge United Methodist Church said goodbye to Rev. Duane Stidham and hello to Rev. David B Herr.

In July 1998, Rev. Steven M. Conger joined Ridge United Methodist Church.

In December of 2000, after about a year of study, the Administrative Board adopted a statement of need for future development.  As a result of that document, a Building Committee was formed in the spring of 2001.  After almost two years of meetings, congregational listening sessions and a capital campaign, the Charge Conference of Ridge United Methodist Church adopted the first phase of a two-phase building plan. Associated Church Builders was hired as architect, and Hasse Construction was hired as contractor.  A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Sunday, March 16, 2003. We were honored to have two of our charter members, Bob Hayes and Edith Ayers, present that day. 

The first phase included a new fellowship hall, kitchen, and youth suites, as well as remodeling the old fellowship hall and kitchen into seven classrooms and a nursery, and cost approximately $1.6 million.  The Solid Ground contemporary service met for the first time in the new hall on September 28, 2003, with Greg Benson, missionary from Haiti, as the guest Pastor. 

Later that month our first Fish Fry broke-in our new kitchen, followed by our first Dinner/Auction, which was the first major event in the new fellowship hall.  A Dedication Service was held on Sunday, December 7, 2003.  Dr. David Schrader, our District Superintendent, was present to share in the celebration and Rev. Fred Conger was our guest preacher that morning. 

Since 2004, Ridge Church has continued to provide opportunities for members and friends to serve in various ministries as we reach out to people in our neighborhood, our community and our world by extending hope, unconditional love and meaning for life.  Some of these ministries included:  

  • Winning at Life Breakfast to Munster High School Sports Teams: 
  • Open Gym (Middle School After School Program)
  • Saturday Lunch program for Hammond’s homeless
  • Soup Kitchen
  • Foodbank of Northwest Indiana  
  • Mission trips to Slidell, LA, after Hurricane Katrina
  • LARRI (Flood relief) following the 2008 Northwest Indiana flood
  • Fruitful Congregation Journey
  • Beach clean-ups
  • Missions Rummage Sales
  • WWE (Wonderful Wednesday Evenings)
  • Adult Mission Trips
  • Vacation Bible School (VBS)
  • Installation of a Columbarium

The summer of 2015 was a period of transition after Rev. Steven Conger was appointed to an extension ministry setting.  Ridge United Methodist Church welcomed Rev. Michelle L. Knight and her family as our new Senior Pastor.  During September 2015, Ridge celebrated 60 years of ministry with Bishop Michael Coyner, and our new columbarium was dedicated on September 27th.

During 2016-2017, Ridge continued to offer hope, love and meaning for life through a variety of ministries for our community, but also extended ourselves in hospitality to our neighbors.  Thanksgiving of 2016 Ridge hosted a large worship gathering for our inter-faith community.  Our education bathrooms were remodeled with the assistance of a grant from the Indiana Area Foundation. 

During spring of 2017 Ridge United Methodist Church received a matching grant from Center for Congregations to launch, Thrive@Ridge, a campaign to reduce or eliminate the debt on 2003 construction of our fellowship hall and remodel of our previous fellowship hall.  Over 79 families/individuals have committed over a half-million over the next three years to reduce our mortgage. 

During 2017 we also remodeled the education bathrooms as handicapped accessible/family friendly, Eagle Project on safety island, put in new carpet and paint in education hallway, painted education classrooms, and installed security camera system. 

In 2018 Beth Ann Smolinski became our new Children and Family pastor.  Over 3,425 lives were impact through Ridge’s outreach opportunities (Winning at Life, Easter Eggstravaganza, Last Day of School ice cream, Sumner VBS, Back to School BBQ, Trunk-r-Treat, Winter VBS).  Our youth room was renovated and re-dedicated!  Over 750-1000 pounds of food donated for food pantry.  Ridge also replaced our 58-year-old flat roof.

In September of 2018 after we re-financed our mortgage at 4.5% and our debt was within site of being paid-off within a few years.  God is good!!

Rev. Jared Kendall joined Ridge United Methodist Church as our Senior Pastor preaching his first sermon July 7, 2019.

Covid-19 pandemic closed down in-person worship services, Sunday school, bible studies, and all gatherings on March 15, 2020.  Pivoting quickly online worship was born and with the help of social media, worship services continued on Facebook.  Additionally, with the help of a grant, Ridge’s Staff and Tech Team ministry acquired new equipment and software to begin to offer online worship via high definition Live Streaming technology on YouTube.

February 2021, Ridge United Methodist Church formed and commissioned the Compass Team; a group of eight Ridge UMC members responsible for charting the next and future course of the church. 


Charles Blackmon 1956-1963
William Blessing 1963-1966
Ronald Williams 1966-1969
Paul Stephenson 1969-1975
Richard Kistler 1975-1978
Thomas C. Kuhn 1978-1984
John Dean VanVactor 1984-1987
Ronald D. Harshman 1987-1992
Duane Stidham 1992-1993
David B. Herr 1993-1998
Steven M. Conger 1998-2015
Michelle L. Knight 2015-2019
Jared M. Kendall 2019-