Church cel­e­brat­ing 125 years

Wes­ley United Methodist was founded in 1893

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jordana Joy jjoy@morn­ingjour­nal.com @MJ_Jor­danaJoy on Twit­ter

Even the tor­nado of 1924 couldn’t dis­band the con­gre­ga­tion at Wes­ley United Methodist Church, 220 W. Sev­enth St. in Lo­rain.

The church, founded in 1893 as the Sec­ond Methodist Church, is cel­e­brat­ing its 125th year in 2018, stand­ing as the first and old­est African Amer­i­can con­gre­ga­tion in the city of Lo­rain.

“There’s not a lot of Methodist churches, es­pe­cially black ones, at that time,” said E. Jean Wrice, who is the lay leader and sec­re­tary at Wes­ley United Methodist Church.

A year af­ter the church was founded, a wooden build­ing was pur­chased on Sev­enth Street, said Wrice, who has at­tended the church since she was 13.

The tor­nado struck and de­mol­ished the church in June 1924.

The name of the church was changed to Sev­enth Street Methodist when the new brick build­ing was com­pleted in 1927 for $40,000, which still stands to­day.

“I never get so busy that I can’t give my time to the church.”

— E. Jean Wrice, lay leader and sec­re­tary at Wes­ley United Methodist Church

The church then be­came a part of the East Ohio Con­fer­ence of the United Methodist Church Par­son­age in 1978, and its name was changed to Wes­ley United Methodist Church.

Wrice, pres­i­dent of the Lo­rain Unit of the NAACP, said her fam­ily al­ready was heav­ily in­volved in Methodist churches when they moved to Lo­rain in the 1950s from Alabama.

She said her fa­ther, Fletcher Bai­ley, had come from a fam­ily of Methodist church min­is­ters.

“That’s all I ever knew was Methodist,” Wrice said.

Wrice said she still par­tic­i­pates in a wide range of ser­vices for the church, whether sing­ing in the choir or log­ging new mem­bers into the church’s files.

“I never get so busy that I can’t give my time to the church,” she said.

Wes­ley’s con­gre­ga­tion used to aver­age around 75 to 80 mem­bers, but now has 35 or 40 mem­bers due to some of them pass­ing away and lack of young fam­i­lies at­tend­ing ser­vice, Wrice said.

How­ever, Wrice said the church is do­ing its part to en­gage more of the com­mu­nity by mak­ing sure newer mem­bers feel wel­come.

Since many of th­ese mem­bers come from dif­fer­ent faiths, Wrice said she makes sure she ex­plains dif­fer­ences in pro­ce­dures and ser­vice so that they can ad­just.

“We just try to keep them un­der our um­brella and tell them we love them and our pro­ce­dures,” she said. “The way we run the churches are dif­fer­ent from some of the other peo­ple that come in.”

It is this sense of com­mu­nity and in­ter-gen­er­a­tional in­volve­ment with the church that has kept it alive for so long, Wrice said.

Since she has at­tended the church the con­gre­ga­tion has been mainly com­prised of pro­fes­sion­als and work­ing fam­i­lies, she said.

“One of the things about the Methodist church and the his­tor­i­cally black churches, is that you end up with highly ed­u­cated, hired pro­fes­sional in the church,” said the Rev. Stan­ley R. Miller, pas­tor of Wes­ley. “It brings a dif­fer­ent process, I think, to wor­ship. it’s not just here, but a lot of churches ex­pe­ri­ence that.

“They’re will­ing to do the work. Ev­ery­thing it takes to sup­port the com­mu­nity, they tend to do it. That’s what churches do.”

Miller has been with Wes­ley for over two years and said get­ting in touch with the com­mu­nity was cru­cial to get­ting ac­cli­mated.

He’s also pas­tor of Rust United Methodist Church, 128 Grov­e­land in Ober­lin, which has been in ex­is­tence for nearly 150 years.

Whether col­lab­o­rat­ing with other churches in the area or pass­ing out sur­veys door-to-door, Miller said th­ese ac­tions make a dif­fer­ence in the suc­cess of the church.

“We’re try­ing to get out of the walls of the church and do some things,” he said. “It was one of those ex­pe­ri­ences I think ev­ery church needs to do to be ac­quaint­ing them­selves with the neigh­bor­hood.”

Wes­ley will hold a ban­quet cel­e­brat­ing its 125 years with the theme “Re­mem­brance and Shar­ing Our Past” at 5 p.m. Nov. 10 in the base­ment of the church.

Tick­ets are $20 a per­son, and $10 for chil­dren ages 12 and younger.

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