By Jim Wright

On April 2, 2023 (Palm Sunday), Mercy Hill Chapel launched in the Irvington area of Indianapolis. Founded in 1870 by Sylvester Johnson and Jacob Julian, Irvington has since become the largest protected historic district in Indianapolis. Not only is the district known for historic homes, structures, boutiques, and one of the oldest African-American congregations in Marion County, Irvington is also home to the Irvington Halloween Festival. In many ways, the Halloween Festival epitomizes the spiritual darkness prevalent in this community.


One of the ways God has brought light into this community is through the ministry of the McOwen family.


Brad and Jen McOwen met and were married in California. Soon after their marriage, the pastor of their church shared that a sister church was about to close permanently. The pastor asked if there were individuals who felt called to help replant the dying church. Sensing God’s call, the newlyweds joined a few other couples and replanted the church. (The church just celebrated its 10th anniversary!).


A few years later, the McOwens moved to Indiana to be near family. The scenario in California repeated itself, and they soon found themselves on a planting team in Goshen, Indiana. During that season, Brad completed his ministry degrees; afterward, God called him and his family to plant a church in Irvington. In 2022, Brad began his residency with Harvest of Carmel. He assembled a team, and the Goshen, Indiana church they helped plant became their sponsoring church.


Launching a church in a spiritually dark place like Irvington is difficult. In his interactions with the community at restaurants, coffee shops, door-to-door, and other office mates in the convention center, Pastor McOwen has learned that many have been brushed by Christianity but never transformed by Christ. People in the community view Christians as haters because they do not affirm LGBT lifestyles and the paganism that are hallmarks of the community. However, through relationships, ministry to needs, and showing the love of Christ, people are starting to respond to Christ.


For example, Mercy Hill has an office in the Irvington Event Center with other individuals and companies. Of course, this allows Pastor Brad to interact with office-mates in the breakrooms and hallways. Several months ago, a fellow renter shared how they hated Christians and found them intolerant. They then told pastor Brad that he had picked a challenging area to plant a church. However, a few months later, that same person came into Pastor McOwen’s office in tears to share a difficult situation in her life. In tears, the struggling person said, “I know you are a pastor, and I feel like I can talk to you.” Although this individual has not yet received Christ, God is at work on her heart.


Amid spiritual darkness, the light of God continues to shine through not only with conversions but also with His provision. In the year since launching Mercy Hill Chapel, God provided the use of the Irvington Events Center, where they have worship space, an office, and rooms for children. God has supplied the finances, and the core team has remained solidly behind the effort. Recently, God provided a worship leader through a series of divine interventions.


Outreach events like Vacation Bible School in a local park, working with a resource center, free car washes, providing gift boxes and prayers to their neighbors at Christmas, use of Facebook reels, and being a part of the CarePortal to ministry to single parents and children in need have resulted in new people coming into the Mercy Hill Chapel from the Irvington community.


As Mercy Hill Chapel moves into its second year of ministry, pray for God to:

  • Soften hearts in the Irvington area
  • Wisdom for how to best reach the community
  • Provide small group leaders and homes
  • Give Pastor Brad and his family strength and endurance

Mercy Hill Chapel is shining the light of the Gospel in a community known for spiritual darkness.