Almost any child can interlock their fingers and say the rhyme: “Here’s the church and there’s the steeple. Open the door and there’s all the people.” People are what make the life, energy and soul of the church. Although bricks and mortar are not the most important part of a church, it is part of what makes the history of a church. Wesley United Methodist Church, standing on the corner of Cleveland and North Street has a long and interesting history, but it did not start at that location.
In 1890, a group of people met in private homes and started a church called the Methodist Church of North Kankakee. As they grew, they knew they needed a larger and permanent location for their church. So land was purchased and a white frame building was erected and completed in 1892, on the corner of Center and Perry Street in Bradley. This building was also the home of the Bradley Grade School until they built their own building in 1894.
A very interesting addition came along in 1922. The church building was lifted from its foundation, a basement was dug and a furnace was installed. It sometimes took all day for the furnace to warm the building, so many times you would find Sunday School classes, scout groups, or trustees meeting in the basement near the furnace for warmth.
Sadly, many of our church records were lost in a fire at the church parsonage in 1930. However, the homecoming newsletter from August 1934 boasted of these accomplishments: increased membership at church and Sunday School, the addition of the Men’s Brotherhood Organization and Bible Class, Boy and Girl Scout troops sponsored by the church, a Young Married Women’s Class, Thursday Women’s Bible Class, the Ladies Quilt Aid, and the Missionary Society.
Jump ahead to 1953, when the property was purchased for our present day site.The church members worked diligently to accumulate enough cash to start a ten year building plan, and in 1957 the first structure was completed. With this new location, the congregation felt a new name was needed and the church was renamed, Wesley Methodist Church. A five block parade went from the old to new church with banners flying and signs waving, and small children riding in wagons.
After the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church merged in 1968 our name was officially changed to Wesley United Methodist Church and by 1971 the congregation had grown and was able to build our current sanctuary. Additionally, the chapel was built, the choir room, Sunday School classrooms, and the pastor’s study. The former sanctuary remains as our fellowship hall.
This is part of our history to date. But our story is not complete. If you are on your journey of faith and searching for a church home . . . Come . . . Join us. . . Christ and Wesley can use you to increase His Kingdom.