Ron Elly — His Impact on LUM

Ronald EllyThis week Lafayette Urban Ministry has lost one of the founders of our ministry — Ron Elly.

LUM is known in our community for many good things — but few realize it is largely due to the work of the Reverend Ronald D. Elly. Ron was the energy, inspiration, faith, and vision of the formation of Lafayette Urban Ministry 50 years ago. Here is a brief history of the impact of Ron Elly on Lafayette Urban Ministry.

1962 – Neighborhood Development Project is Formed

Although LUM was officially incorporated in 1972, its roots go back to 1962 and the work of the Neighborhood Development Project. NDP was started by a Purdue student and Doris Hanstra, wife of the Rev. Peter Hanstra, pastor of Hope Chapel Presbyterian Church. Operating out of Hope Chapel, NDP offered crafts and camp programs which attracted mostly south-side neighborhood children & families.

1967 – Ron Elly Moves to Lafayette

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After the retirement of the Hanstras in 1966, Hope Chapel called the Rev. Ron Elly as its new pastor and director of the Neighborhood Development Project. Newly married to Ellen Saint (June 1966), Ron began his ministry in June 1967 with a commitment to blending the spiritual dimensions of faith with the social dimensions.

He saw his call as an opportunity for parish, pastoral, and community outreach ministry.

1969 – Ron Elly Enlists Four Churches

Under the leadership of Ron Elly, the Neighborhood Development Project became a multi-church ministry by September 1969 with Hope Chapel, Covenant, Bethany and Faith Presbyterian churches as members. By December of 1970, the vision of a broader ecumenical urban ministry began to take form.

1971 – Ron Elly Broadens Reach;
Neighborhood Development Project renamed LUM

In 1971, the new goals of the Neighborhood Development Project Board were to raise $10,000 for the salary and housing of a full-time director of NDP, receive approval from the Presbytery of the terms of a call to that position, and to seek the cooperation of the United Methodist church and the Roman Catholic Church in obtaining a second staff member for this urban ministry. Finally, in December 1971, the name of the Neighborhood Development Project was changed to Lafayette Urban Ministry and all the assets and liabilities were transferred from the one to the other.

1972 – Ron Elly becomes first Pastor/Director of Lafayette Urban Ministry;
LUM incorporated

Ron Elly 0025In 1972, the Rev. Ron Elly became the first pastor/director of Lafayette Urban Ministry and continued his work, in office space provided by Central Presbyterian Church.

Thanks to the hard-work and persistence of Ron Elly, Lafayette Urban Ministry was officially incorporated as an Indiana Not-For-Profit Corporation on October 16, 1972. Seven churches were represented as charter members: Covenant Presbyterian, St. Andrew United Methodist, First United Methodist, Central Presbyterian, Dayton Presbyterian, Hope Chapel and Bethany Presbyterian. Early programming at LUM was organized around three general issue areas: community development, youth, and aging. A Spanish-speaking and revenue sharing task forces were started; and the centralized emergency fund began with the financial support of 13 churches. Seventy-two families were helped by LUM in 1975; adventure clubs and summer camp continued for youth; good friends and volunteer transportation programs for the low-income aged were offered.

1976 – LUM Green Book is Published

Thanks to funding from the Lilly EndLUM Green Bookowment, research began which resulted in the publishing of the LUM Green Book — officially entitled The Lafayette Urban Ministry: A Model for Urban Ministries and an Evaluation of LUM and written by James D. Davidson, Purdue Sociology and Anthropology in collaboration with Ron Elly; Thomas Hull, LUM president; and Don Nead, campus pastor, University Church — the Dream Team. This report used LUM as a model for urban ministries who engage local churches in social concerns and action, particularly of low income families. It included the model for urban ministries that was developed and proposed by the LUM Board in 1976. The report concluded with an evaluation of LUM based on the model and gave specific recommendations. The Green Book has become legendary within Lafayette Urban Ministry and still is relevant and worth reading today.

1977 – Ron Elly Retires

By the time Rev. Ron Elly resigned as the LUM director in October 1977, the LUM Board of Directors had grown to 22 member churches and four paid staff members.

2015 – Dream Team Fund created by Ron Elly, Jim Davidson, Tom Hull & Don Nead

2014-09-17 Dream Team at Board Meeting 051 (2)

In January 2015, the Dream Team created a new fund to support program-related research and evaluation at LUM — the LUM Dream Team Fund for Research and Evaluation. Ron, Jim, Tom & Don pledged $10,000 each to get the fund started. Learn more about the fund HERE.

As you can see, the impact of the Rev. Ron Elly from 1967 to 2016 cannot be understated. Ron Elly was a remarkable leader with a vision for serving local families in need and the persistence to form and incorporate Lafayette Urban Ministry — an urban ministry with the history, support and conviction to be a presence for many years to come.

Remembering Ron Elly

Joe Micon, LUM executive director.
“LUM has been part of the fabric of our community for so long I think it is hard to conceive of a time that churches were not working so closely together. Ron was the visionary, the first, the one with the special gifts to pull people and churches together to form LUM. Everything that has followed is built upon the foundation that he laid in the 60’s and 70’s. It would be hard to imagine our community without the good work accomplished everyday by Lafayette Urban Ministry. Ron Elly has left us an incredible legacy.”

James Davidson, retired Purdue professor.
“Ron Elly was a very righteous man, in the best sense of the word. He understood his faith in ways that called him to gather others around him to do big work that one person, one pastor, one congregation couldn’t get done alone. Maybe better, he understood how to get people to go along, because he could convince them that they wanted to be involved, not because they had to. Not everyone knows Ron. But they know LUM, And if they know LUM, they hear the echoes of Ron Elly’s name.”

Thomas Hull, former president of Lafayette Urban Ministry.
“Ron and I go back a long way; to the days when he was the pastor at Hope Chapel. It was in this era that he became the founding director of Lafayette Urban Ministry. Early on, my wife Peggy was active with arts and crafts programs for local children. Over these many years Ron was a good and faithful friend. He officiated at my daughter’s wedding; and recently Ron, Don Nead and Ann Pellegrino led my wife’s memorial service.”

Read more about Ron Elly:

  • Remembrances & Prayers for Ron Elly, click HERE
  • Ron Elly—His Impact on LUM, click HERE
  • Remembering Legacy and the Lafayette Urban Ministry by Jud Dolphin, click HERE
  • Ron Elly’s Obituary, HERE
  • Ron Elly was an ecumenical game changer by Dave Bangert, Journal & Courier (June 29, 2016), click HERE

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Pictured above L to R are Ron Elly; Jud Dolphin, Ron’s successor; and Joe Micon, Jud’s successor and current LUM executive director.

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