Artist painting of Salem exterior
Salem Lutheran Church
4700 W. 72nd Street 
Indianapolis, Indiana 46268

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Obituary - Edited from post: Tribute Archive /

Rev. Dr. Bonita Susan Sparks

Bonnie Sparks, 73, passed away Wednesday May 5, 2021 in Indianapolis, IN. She was a retired minister of the United Church of Christ and served at Salem (ELCA) from 2010 to 2015. Born in St. Louis, MO to John M. and Viola, Bonnie and her family moved to Indianapolis when she was a child. Though she moved many times as an adult, Indianapolis remained a home base throughout her life.

Bonnie valued all education, including both formal education and learning through travel and experience. She was proud to have earned a doctorate and to have traveled and lived in many locations. Whenever she could, she encouraged others to broaden their minds by pursuing education and travel. She applied her own degrees in a career in Christian education, pastoral and elderly care, and pastoral church ministry. She credited the matriarchs in her family for instilling a religious foundation which directed her career in the church.

Salem Lutheran, her final congregation, is not only one she called home, but also one where her work shines brightly. Rebuilding the congregation to serve the needs of the international community around them was a source of enormous pride for her. It encapsulated many of her values: reimagined growth through learning, outreach to the vulnerable, and cross-cultural understanding.

After Bonnie’s retirement, she continued to grow and learn through transformative travel, deeply experiencing several countries and cultures of Africa. Upon her final return to Indianapolis, she used her knowledge and experience to strengthen her local Crooked Creek North Neighborhood Community to be one of mutual dignity, support, and justice. She will be missed globally and locally.

Bonnie embraced her eccentricities and delighted in what made her unique. She decorated for Halloween to the fullest, ruthlessly used the words “shall” and “autumnal,” wore the craziest glasses and hats she could find, and made it her mission to complete as many “sets of experiences,” such as visiting national parks, states, countries, or Disney theme parks, as she could. If she could surprise others with the unexpected, she would smile.

Bonnie is survived by her daughters, Jillanne Thomas (Paul) and Jenn Stumpp; grandchildren, Robert Sanchez and Gloria Sanchez; and sister, Elizabeth Fowler. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Joseph Stumpp; and her daughter, Johnna Stumpp.

A memorial service will be held June 5 at 1pm at Salem Lutheran Church, 4700 W 72nd St, Indianapolis, IN 46268.

To maintain health and safety protocols, the service will follow certain Covid precautions. The service will be outdoors in the style of Bonnie’s beloved “Picnics in the Park with Pastor” from her tenure at the church. To respect the Covid protocols of the church, attendees are asked to please register at (Click here to register) and carefully note the guidelines for interaction there. Consistent with the outdoor picnic style, dress is casual: Please bring memories to share and your own lawn chair to place in Covid-spaced groups of your choosing.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her honor to Project 365 to rescue orphaned children from trafficking and slavery.




Salem ELCA homepage for directions and details about the church.

Salem ELCA tribute to the life and ministry of Pastor Bonnie:  Salem Pastor Bonnie Facebook Tribute

The opening strains of All Glory, Laud and Honor signal the Palm Sunday procession (10:30 a.m.) and the beginning of Holy Week.  As we follow the Processional Cross up and down the aisles, we wave our palm branches, mirroring trhe people of Jerusalem who welcomed Jesus with open arms that day.

Following Worship, the annual Palm Sunday Brunch will be held in the Fellowship Hall.  This is an important event in the life of Salem.  Salem family and friends are invited to gather for food and fellowship.


The heart of the Maundy Thursday liturgy (7:00 p.m.) is Jesus' commandment to love one another.  In the example of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, we are called to follow his example as we humbly care for one another, especially the poor and unloved.


The name "Good Friday" reminds us that the Church gathers not to mourn on this day but to celebrate Christ's life-giving passion and to find strength and hope in the tree of life.  The solemn Good Friday service will be begin at 7:00 p.m.


At the Easter Morning Service (10:30 a.m.) our hearts burn within us as the resurrection is proclaimed in our midst and as Jesus appears to us at the holy table.  The Easter greeting and response, "Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  The Lord is rised indeed! Alleluia!" is more than the Easter Call to Worship.  It is the first and shortest Creed of our faith.  The Sunday Worship is the culmination of our entire salvation history.

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Salem Lutheran Church, ELCA Indianapolis