Darrell Shepherd, vice chair of the local board of administration (LBA) at LifeSpring Wesleyan Church, Richmond, Indiana, first started attending Fountain City Wesleyan Church (now LifeSpring Wesleyan Church) nearly 60 years ago. He knew something was different about that congregation because they did not want to simply settle for how things were with their community. The church eagerly desired for people to come to know Jesus and to impact their community for Christ.

“We were satisfied in the Lord, but not satisfied as long as our neighbors did not know Jesus,” said Darrell.

As Darrell continued to serve at LifeSpring, he learned more about founding pastor Daniel Worth and his 130-year legacy. Not only did Worth found the congregation, he was also a founding member of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection and served as president of their second general conference.

Originally from North Carolina, Worth went to Indiana as an opportunity to plant new congregations, but also in opposition to the rampant slavery that was practiced in his home state. Several of his contemporaries, such as Adam Crooks, Jesse McBride and Jarvis Bacon had worked to advance abolition in North Carolina but been violently repudiated. Firmly convicted of the evils of slavery, Worth decided it was his turn to work against the enslavement of human beings.

In 1857, Worth returned to his home state, figuring that unlike his younger compatriots, his older age would protect him from the violence others had experienced. In addition, Worth had family members he expected would come to his aid. He was wrong on both accounts. Rejected by his family, Worth was arrested for selling a book that opposed slavery. He was jailed in a cell with no heat for the winter and his health suffered immensely. His feet froze, which disabled him the rest of his life.

Wesleyan historian Dr. Robert Black comments, “He (Worth) is a great example of the level of commitment that early Wesleyans had, not just taking an unpopular stance, but also paying the price for holding that stance.”

Eventually released on bond, Worth, at the urging of friends, returned to the North not as a defeated person but rather as an icon of the antislavery movement. Dr. Black continues, “Worth was an example of putting his money where his mouth was. He was an example of living out what he understood the gospel to be.”

In January 2023, Darrell Shepherd was alerted by staff of the Willow Grove Cemetery in Fountain City, Indiana, that Daniel Worth’s headstone had cracked and fallen apart. Darrell knew something had to be done: “I felt like we should give the founder of our church and co-founder of our denomination a proper headstone so that people could actually read it. This will give him proper recognition for future generations.”

Coordinating with Reverend Tony Casey at Wesleyan Headquarters, Darrell began to design a new headstone. “The design was simple in keeping with the Wesleyan mindset of simplicity and in keeping with the character of Daniel Worth,” said Darrell.

Dr. Black was consulted and suggested adding an echo of Paul’s words from Galatians 6:17, “He bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” which Darrell added to the design. Rev. Casey agreed with Dr. Black, “The verse is literally true when it comes to Daniel Worth!” Taking these additions into account, Darrell finalized the design and installed the new headstone.

On one side of Worth’s headstone it reads, “Daniel was an avid abolitionist in his quest to set men free.” Darrell reflected, “As an abolitionist, Daniel Worth was never satisfied with enslavement, neither physical nor spiritual. When I started attending Fountain City Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1966, I could sense, in that small congregation, a ‘Daniel Worth spirit of dissatisfaction’ and the desire to reach out to those around us with the message of being free in Christ. That same spirit continues to drive LifeSpring Church, these 181 years later, to share the message of freedom that Christ brings.”

Dr. Black turns the conversation to today: “Our legacy must be stepping to the front, not to be the pawn of a political party, but to strive for biblical justice. What would Daniel Worth say in our pulpits today?” He continued, “It is about being the hands and feet of Christ in a world that desperately needs it.”

Daniel Worth’s legacy challenges us not only on a denominational level, but also personally to examine ourselves on how we will be remembered. Like Daniel Worth, are we willing to pay the price for what we believe the gospel to be? What legacy will we leave behind for future generations to remember and be guided by?

Jacob Gibson is the senior pastor at LifeSpring Wesleyan Church, Richmond, Indiana, and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Seminary, Marion, Indiana.