Morgan Park United Methodist Church held its first Sunday service on May 22, 1887, with forty-two persons in attendance.
The church was formed at the urging of Dr. William Henry German, a devout Methodist, who arrived in the community in 1882. It was he, who in 1887 earnestly sought consent from the Presiding Elder of the Joliet District to hold services. Reverend W. O. Shepard of Blue Island agreed to hold Sunday afternoon services beginning on May 22, 1887, until a student pastor could be appointed at the next Conference session that October.
The first prayer meeting, held on the following Wednesday, was attended by the families of Dr. German and Frank Robinson, another founding member of the church, along with the pastor who stated, “We are making history tonight”. Little did they know, that they had begun an institution and ministries that would last for more than a century.
Rev. James R. Hamilton, the student pastor appointed in October 1887, found a charter membership of 18, and others waiting to join. During his one year pastorate, a movement to build a church at Prospect and Homewood Avenue began. The cost was $2,000.00.
By the church’s 25th Anniversary in 1912, the congregation had outgrown the little church on Prospect Avenue, and had laid the cornerstone for a new church on Longwood Drive. The new church was completed in 1913, at a cost of $47,713.63; including the lot, building, organ and furniture.
Rev. Arthur Klontz became pastor in 1919, and by 1924 the church had grown to 1,000 members, and set a goal of 1,500 members by 1929.
Rev. Klontz wrote the following in the 1924 dedication program: “A fervent prayer of gratitude should ascend to God, for His leading during the 37 years since this church was organized. From a membership of 18, to one of a thousand is a great victory. To Him be the glory. We face the future with confidence, and high hope. The victories of the past give courage for the future. The program will be built, more than ever, about young life. The first consideration will be given to young people.”
Over the years, many faithful and committed members have loved the church, and have nurtured the building, their fellow members and the ministries of the church. We have been a warm and welcoming, diverse congregation, but the recipe for growth remains much the same as that cited by Rev. Klontz.
However, now on the 132nd Anniversary of our beloved Morgan Park United Methodist Church, we are faced with new challenges. Not only are we living in an era when main-line Christian churches are in decline, but we, as Methodists, have the added burden of honoring our Wesleyan heritage, while remaining a relevant church, ministering to and loving all of God’s children, with no exclusions. If we can find a place to stand under the cover of God’s love, our story will go on.