Wesley Church History
In the spring of 1963, a few Free Methodist families began meeting in their homes in Waukegan and Zion for Bible studies. The Illinois FM Conference encouraged and facilitated the first meeting and provided drive-in leadership from churches in Evanston and Woodstock. A sense of cohesiveness and mission among the group resulted in teh decision to organize a church.
The first public service was held on October 13, 1963, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Waukegan. Services were held there for the first three years. Rev. W.D. Mack, a retired chaplain and chemistry teacher at Woodstock, pastored the church on Sundays for the first two years. After careful study, land at the present site was purchased in 1964, building plans began in 1965, and the first phase built in 1966. Rev. W.D. Rudolph, an English professor from Wheaton College, pastored the church in 1965-66, and Rev. Archie Mathias and administrator at Woodstock Homes, filled in for a few weeks in 1966 before conference. A small parsonage/chapel combination was considered but rejected in favor of a larger sanctuary plan that would allow for growth more quickly.
Rev. Royal Bailie came as resident pastor in 1966 while the building was under construction. On the first day of worship in the new sanctuary, still cluttered with saw horses and with open eaves letting in the birds, 55 people attended. The first limestone parking lot held 12 cars. Pastor Bailie was the pastor for 22 years. For the first seven years of his pastorate he was bi-vovational, serving as a high school counselor in Waukegan. Under Rev. Bailie’s leadership, the well-stocked and well-organized library was formed. The multiple-staff concept developed under his leadership, although the first staff personnel were primarily volunteer. Relying on lay involvement in teaching, building maintenance, children and youth ministries, and yearly community events has been a hallmark of the church since its inception.
Growth continued, resulting in other building projects. In 1972 the office wing was added. In 1976 the back 36 feet of the sanctuary was added, with the original back wooden wall being dismantled and rebuilt by a crew of 30 men in one day, November 11, 1976. General contracting on these additions, along with a great deal of the work, was done by members of the congregation. In 1980, the balcony was added and in 1984, the present foyer and multi-purpose room along with the basement classrooms were added.
Throughout the building programs, changes of worship style, changes in demographics, and changes in leadership over the years, a spirit of unity and supportiveness has prevailed. As we continue to serve the Waukegan area, bringing God’s message of hope and love, we work with anticipation watching His-story unfold.