Church celebrating 125 years
Wesley United Methodist was founded in 1893
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.