t least three dozen ships, equipped with proudly stacked sails, sit poised for voyages to parts unknown on book shelves in Bishop Charles Sims’ office at Columbus’ Calvary Community Church.
They provide a fitting symbol for a man willing to drift into uncharted waters.
“I like to get out of my comfort zone,” he said.
He has spent a lifetime doing a bit of precisely that. Now, squarely amid Black History Month, he and wife Jane, also a minister, are among well-known minority leaders in Bartholomew County.
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He stepped from his comfort zone soon after he arrived in Columbus.
Having accepted a Cummins Engine Co. post as a supervisor of shipping and receiving at the firm’s Walesboro plant, during non-work time Sims launched a children’s Sunday School followed by his current church’s opening seven months later in September 1975.
He chuckled when asked why he has stayed in one place when modern ministry often is marked by departures and leading this new church and that new venture.
“The best possible place to be in the whole wide world is the center of the will of God,” he said. “Everything that looks like gold and shines like gold is not always gold.”
He stepped from his comfort zone again in 1979 when he left a computer programmer position at Cummins to begin a different career path counseling troubled teens at Edinburgh’s Atterbury Jobs Corps, where he had begun volunteering. On weekends, he would take his church van, pick up about 10 of Job Corps students, bring them to church and then bring them home to feed them and talk.
He or another church leader have been bringing students to church and to lunch ever since.
The Rev. Brian Nix, Calvary’s assistant pastor, brought 29 students to a recent service. As many as 65 have attended some services.
“It shows his genuine care and concern (for young people),” Nix said. “And I think they truly feel the love of the church members. He realizes that young people are the leaders of tomorrow.”
The topic of leadership surfaced repeatedly in a recent conversation with Sims. It also surfaced elsewhere in his office.
Books from authors such as leadership and ministry guru John Maxwell, evangelist Billy Graham, and business and management wizard Stephen Covey and others line his plentiful shelves that he hopes to further expand.
The entire award-winning PBS civil rights video series, “Eyes On the Prize,” also occupies key space for the man who earned the local Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Excellence Award in 2014.
Columbus’ Frank Griffin has seen Sims’ leadership while Griffin served as a Calvary member for 18 years. And he has seen Sims’ leadership training that made it possible for Griffin five years ago to assume the pastorate of Greenwood’s Thy Kingdom Come Ministries — one of probably a dozen area churches to which Sims’ has provided clergy just over the past decade.
“We have to remember that to minister means to serve,” Griffin said. “He demonstrates that and he teaches that.”
Inner-city Chicago native Julius Moore saw that firsthand when he met Sims in 1977 when he was a struggling 17-year-old at Atterbury Jobs Corps.
“The big thing about Mr. Sims — I still think of him that way — was that he really listened,” Moore said. “And then he gave me good advice.”
When Moore was offered a job in the parts department of Columbus’ Rhoades Aviation, he was ready to turn it down. He had no transportation. But Sims intervened and told him to take the job “and don’t worry right now about the rest.”
Moore took the job. And Sims loaned him a car at no expense to get him to and from work.
“That’s when you clearly see that someone truly cares,” Moore said.
Today, Moore counsels Chicago’s inner-city youth — people much like he was when he met counselor Sims — and still regularly calls the local pastor for wisdom and advice.
Sims never has claimed all-knowing insight. In fact, he acknowledged that he has faced his share of confusion, even about whether or not to remain in ministry in the early days.
“I certainly have sometimes struggled to find my way,” Sims said.
But he also has displayed a playful, child-like spirit at times.
In the middle of a recent Calvary worship service, he encouraged one of his young grandchildren to jump and click his heels, and then nimbly and laughingly demonstrated the lighthearted maneuver to the child.
“And look — I’m 82 years old and not sitting here panting,” he said laughing and exaggerating his age for humorous effect. “And my voice is still strong.”
To prove it, he pulled away his microphone and bellowed, “Heeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy!” that thundered through the sanctuary. Then he laughed heartily. For those who might not understand, he takes the gospel very seriously.
“But you can’t take yourself too seriously,” he said afterward.
Griffin recalled an evening of Friday night football about a decade ago when Sims’ youngest son completed a solid game. An excited Sims, then in his early 60s, easily grabbed and scaled the fence surrounding the field while the pastor’s much taller and younger friends looked for a gap so they could more easily pass through.
Much of Sims’ life has consisted of leaping over hurdles.
For instance, before he ever began the children’s Sunday School, the local Unitarian Universalist Church members had to agree to allow him to use a room in their building — now his own Calvary church.
“But I had no money for renting (space),” Sims said.
So he became the Unitarians’ weekly Friday night janitor, even while he toiled by day as a college-degreed, white-collar professional for Cummins.
“That didn’t matter to me,” he said of the extra work that some might have viewed as beneath them. “I knew God had called me, and I knew where I was going.”
And he was going wherever the wind of God spirit would take him.
Role: Founder in 1975 and senior pastor of the 200-member Columbus’ Calvary Community Church, 1031 Chestnut St. He is bishop over 65 churches in the Fourth Episcopal District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and the Indiana Apostolic Bible Student Association Council.
Also founder and president of Columbus’ Calvary Midwest Bible College and Theological Seminary, based at the church.
Hometown: Reelsville, near Greencastle.
Resident: Columbus since 1974 when he accepted a job with Cummins. Before that, he worked for the Indiana Civil Rights Commission as director of investigations.
Family: Married to wife Jane for 46 years. Children Rachel, Charles Aaron, Chad (wife Josann), Christel Rebekah (husband Toby), and John Mark (wife Alaya). Sims was the 12th of 18 children. His father was a self-educated masonry contractor who also operated his own cattle and hog farm.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history from Indiana University. A bachelor’s and master’s in theology from Indiana Bible College. A doctorate in ministry from Christian Theological Seminary.
Hobby: Eclectic reading, and trips to bookstores to browse and read with his wife.