Rev. George Varns — October 1960 - September 1978

George Varns was born in 1926 on a farm in Strasburg, Ohio where he attended St. John's Evangelical Church. He attended a one-room country school through the fourth grade and continued on at Bolivar School. It was there he met Keene Lebold, who in 1960 became director of Merom Institute and therefore instrumental in paving the Varns' way to Freelandville.

While in high school, George was active in 4-H, marching band, debate club and Latin Club. Following high school, he attended Elmhurst College where he was involved in drama club, yearbook staff, mixed choir, track, and was a letterman on the cheer squad. However the track coach discouraged his participation in track only to have George contact the coach later in life when he qualified for the Boston Marathon. Graduating from Elmhurst in 1947, he continued his education at Eden Seminary in St. Louis. During this time, he became reacquainted with a girl he had met in Ohio and kept the postal system busy over the 400 mile route. George graduated from Eden Seminary in June 1950 in the 100th Anniversary Class and married that girl from Ohio – Ruth on June 18. He was ordained July 9th of that same year and right away began serving his first pastorate in Lewisville, Ohio, serving three churches for an annual salary of $2400. In 1952 he was nominated Rural Minister of the Year in the Ohio Council of Churches. They welcomed Rachel, Nathan and Tom into their family and later Peter in 1964. In June 1960, four members of Bethel traveled to Ohio to visit and observe George during worship and issued and invitation to him to come to Bethel. So on a beautiful September Sunday with over 500 people present, George gave his trial sermon at Bethel and was received with an overwhelming positive vote. George and his family relocated to Freelandville in October 1960 where he taught Confirmation, became involved in youth activities, and supported them in Mission Trips to Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Shannondale.

Being active in the community was important to the Varns family. Meetings included PTO, Widner Township Farm Bureau and the Freelandville Improvement Club. George was instrumental in initiating the Freelandville Community Home, breaking ground on September 16, 1962, along side Alfred Brocksmith who had celebrated his 100th birthday the day before. George served on the North Knox School Board from 1982-1994.

Bethel Evangelical and Reformed became a member of the United Church of Christ in 1963.

During his tenure, George oversaw the placement of a steeple on Bethel Church and the building of an educational wing both in 1967. George and Ruth introduced the practice of inviting some 25 members of the congregation for a Sunday evening get-together. Over 450 persons participated in the years of 1967-1969. In June 1975, George and Ruth were surprised by the congregation with a 25th anniversary celebration, a special program and a monetary gift which allowed them a two week trip to Europe.

During his years at Bethel, he provided a pastoral leadership which has been unsurpassed in Bethel's long history. In his 18 years of service, he baptized 266 babies, children and adults, confirmed 254 youth, married 126 couples and performed 310 funerals. All of his accomplishments bring about memories of joy, comfort, and inspiration. "Truly God has given us all a wonderful life and we need to give thanks to Him every day he gives us to enjoy His beautiful earth." – George Varns.

In 1978, George felt the need to explore other possibilities, accepting a counselor's position at Vincennes University where he spent 13 years. While there, he participated in several musicals and developed an interest in running which resulted in 28 marathons, 10 of which were at Boston. During those years, George also served part-time at churches in Palestine, IL; Sumner, IL; and Edwardsport. In the years since, he has served as director of Knox County Step-Ahead and is currently Assistant Pastor at St. John's UCC in Vincennes where he and Ruth reside. They enjoy traveling and visiting their children and grandchildren in Oregon (Rachel, Steve and son David), Hawaii (Nathan, Sophary and son Theodore), Peter in California, and Tom, Anne, and children, Daniel and Andrew, in near-by Bloomington.