Rev. Benjamin Capshaw’s ministry is shaping his community even after his death. A small-church pastor and town chaplain, Rev. Capshaw’s ministry was (on the surface) relatively similar to that of most rural pastors. Under the surface, however, Rev. Capshaw’s way of loving others had put down deep roots in Elwood and beyond.
Among our goals in The Wesleyan Church (TWC) is to develop congregations — and through them, disciples — who are a “transforming presence” in our communities. For Rev. Capshaw, this was more than a slogan; it was a way of life.
In the aftermath of Rev. Capshaw’s death, those planning the celebration of life started sifting through the people for whom he had been a load-bearing mentor. When the estimate was made, the only space large enough to accommodate the crowd was the local school auditorium. People he had served — from church, schools, softball teams or public functions — gathered to pay their respects. Community leaders, denominational officials, business owners and neighbors all heralded his role as a spiritual figure in their life. But above all, Rev. Capshaw was noted as a trusted friend.
Christy Clark, administrative assistant to Elwood’s Mayor Todd Jones, shared, “He was so much more than our city chaplain; he was our friend and part of our city family. He fiercely loved the City of Elwood, our citizens and especially our youth, and it showed in his words and actions. He was one of our biggest cheerleaders celebrating our victories and successes, and he stood alongside us providing reassurance and reminding us of God’s love for us when we faced hardships and heartaches… When tragedy would strike, he would come running. He comforted our broken hearts more times than I can count. He was often called upon at all hours by our law enforcement to provide a death notification where he would stay and provide comfort and resources for the family. He wore so many different hats and wore them all well! He was completely interwoven in our community.
“Pastor Ben made a profound impact on countless lives in the City of Elwood. His involvement, passion, sense of humor, commitment, love and deep faith are already so deeply missed. While we are heartbroken and miss him terribly, we are thankful for the opportunity to get to know, love and learn from him. Our city and our lives are better because of Pastor Ben’s love!”
To his wife, Amanda, and sons, Isaac and Noah, he was a loving father, a devoted husband and a dreamer — a point underscored by his and Amanda’s hope to open up Catalyst Youth Center, a safe space for children in Elwood to gather. Amanda continues with plans for the youth center to open, and others in the community continue to help her as their devotion to the Capshaw’s dream lives on.
Rev. Capshaw’s service around The Wesleyan Church (TWC) has taken him around Indiana and Michigan over the past decades. In each place, his ministry was noted as exceptionally kind, marked by a sweet spirit and a generous presence.
“Ben was deeply committed to his calling and served faithfully in every assignment. He was loved and respected by his ministry colleagues,” said Dr. Mark Gorveatte, Crossroads’ District Superintendent.
When asked to sum up Rev. Capshaw’s life in a few words, Dr. Jim Lo, his college professor at Indiana Wesleyan University said, “Passionate, inquisitive, friendly, pastoral.”
Rev. Bob Burchell, fellow District Board of Ministerial Development member, recalled Ben as, “Happy — he had a jovial persona that was infectious.”
Rev. Paul Van Cise, his first senior pastor at Bryant Wesleyan Church, Indiana, where Ben had his first ministry appointment, described him as, “A good friend … added positively to my life … He made my job easier and never caused me stress.”
Rev. Brandon Bruce, Ben’s second senior pastor when they served together at Faith Wesleyan Church in Lansing, Michigan, said Ben was “Full of genuine joy. He was such a good guy!”
Rev. Andy Jellison, a Wesleyan pastor, camping ministry partner and dear friend put it this way: “Ben was ‘all in’ with Jesus, with his family and with his friends.”
And Jack Besswith, his board vice chair, summed it up: “A Man of God.”
Rev. Capshaw’s nine-year ministry in Elwood placed him in hospitals, on accident scenes and in situations of grief and loss with those to whom he ministered. In these days of grief, the Capshaw family needs the very things Ben often brought to others: hope, healing and a sense of anticipation for what God will yet do on their behalf.
Rev. Capshaw’s life reminds us that the church has no greater asset than quiet movements of love. It is in these daily, unnoticed places where the move of God is unleashed to transform the world one person at a time.
Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of collegians and young adults at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s division of Education and Clergy Development.