Main Street United Methodist Church
Monday, May 20, 2013
Wesley Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodism began in the Alton area in 1817, when a group of 6 Methodist people met together and formed the first Methodist fellowship in Upper Alton. The group, Ebenezer Hodges, Mary Hodges, Johnathan Brown, Delila Brown, Oliver Brown, and John Seeley, met in the cabin of their leader, Ebenezer Hodges, near where the Upper Alton Baptist Church now stands at the corner of College Avenue and Seminary Street.
In 1818 Samuel H. Thompson was appointed as the first pastor of the church that would be known as Wesley Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church.
Illinois, in 1818, was a newly born state, having just joined the United States. Upper Alton was listed as a village, and it had been only 47 years since John Wesley had sent young Francis Asbury to America in 1771.
Seventeen years after its beginning, Wesley Chapel built a frame structure in 1835 across the street from 2014 Main Street where they were able in 1849 to build a brick building. Over the course of time Wesley Chapel experienced a parade of pastors beginning in 1818 with Samuel H. Thompson and ending with Theodore Cates in 1923.
Years later, around 1892, a group fromed a mission in a framed building west of the foot of Washington Avenue and north of Walker Street in Alton. Afternoon Sunday school classes were held there. Around 1894 the group built a church on Josting Avenue where the Lowell School is located. 1903 saw the group ready to build a brick structure in the 700 block of Washington Ave, the Washington Avenue Methodist Church.
Many records of this early church are destroyed but it seems most of the early pastors, prior to 1914, were student preachers. The last pastor to serve was Rev. Thomas Roddy, in 1923, who was then transferred to the Medora Charge.
Main Street Methodist Episcopal Church
Time passed and economic conditions in both the Wesley Chapel and the Washington Avenue Methodist Church forced the two congregations to consider a merger which was completed in 1923.
The Wesley Chapel and the Washington Avenue properties were sold and a new site at the corner of Main Street and Benbow Avenue was purchased for $1,500.
A frame tabernacle was built on the north side of the lot in November of 1923, where services were held for almost a year. Construction of the new building was started in the spring of 1924.
The new Main Street Methodist Episcopal Church was completed and first services were held December 7, 1924. Formal dedication was held February 22, 1925. Rev. Theodore Cates (pastor at Wesley Chapel) was assigned as pastor of the combined congregation. The construction costs of the new building was $50,000.
86 members from the Washington Avenue Church and 395 members from the Wesley Chapel gave the new church a total membership of 481.
Main Street Methodist Church
The new church struggled to survive during the years of the great depression. In 1939, the union of 3 churches (The Methodist Episcopal Church, The Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church) changed the name to The Main Street Methodist Church.
After much hard work and many sacrifices, the mortgage was finally paid off and burned April 9, 1944. Not only had the membership grown to 1061, but the church property now was valued at $100,000, debt free.
In 1953, with a church budget of $18,622, plans were drawn up to build a 3 story educational building, redesign the sanctuary, and make other changes. This project was compled in 1957 and was followed by construction of a new parsonage at 2600 Benbow in 1962. Full purchase of the "Hildebrand property" occurred between 1963 and 1965.
Main Street United Methodist Church
The denomination name was changed in 1968, and the Main Street Church became Main Street United Methodist Church.
In 1972 there was a need to move forward and build a new church. This is the sanctuary, erected in 1973 on Brown Street, in which we now worship.
Church attendance had grown and it was now evident that something needed to be done about the education facilities for the church school.
In 1981, plans were presented to the Administrative Board, and a building fund drive was instituted. The hope was to pay off the present debt by 1982 and plan a new educational building.
In 1983, an early morning fire in the old sanctuary (education building) virtually destroyed the interior and forced the issue of a new education building sooner than was planned.
By 1986, the new $1,400,000 education building was completed and ready for occupancy. Moving day was April 29, 1986. The old building, having served well since 1924, was torn down to make room for parking.
Highlights since then include the purchases of 1401 Washington Avenue in 1993 and 1405 Washington Avenue in 1995. The current buildings include 18 classrooms, the sanctuary with a balcony for the choir, a fully equipped kitchen, a gym/activity room, a library, a formal parlor, two nurseries, and the church offices.