First United Methodist Church
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Building a community in which people commit themselves to Jesus Christ in worship, spiritual growth and service

About us

 History


In 1840, four years after McHenry became a pioneer settlement, four couples met in a log cabin to organize a prayer group. The Freeman Harvey, Alden Harvey, Darius Reynolds and Ira Colby families began the First Methodist Episcopal Church in McHenry. Services were originally held in a log schoolhouse close to the present-day Masonic Lodge on Court Street. Later, the congregation met in the McHenry County Courthouse at Pearl and Riverside Streets.

In 1850, together with the Free Will Baptists, a brick church building was erected on the corner of Elm and Green Streets and there were services on alternating Sundays. In 1859, the land where the present church is located was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church by Mr. & Mrs. George Gage for both a church and parsonage. That same year the original sanctuary was built at a cost of $400,000. Much of the work on its construction was donated by men from the community.

The church was served by circuit riders until 1862. These circuit riders also held services in Ringwood, Volo, and Spring Grove. Such a schedule necessitated services being held at various times of the day. On November 15, 1862 Rev. H.S. Trumbull, the first full time minister, was appointed. He was provided with a parsonage and a cow to defray his living expenses. He served only one year and the church then returned to being served by circuit riders. This system lasted until 1878 at which time students from Garrett Seminary began providing full or part time ministries.

It was not until 1947 that another full time minister, the Rev. Wayne Price, was appointed. Since then the church has had 9 other ministers plus two name changes. By the early 1950's the church was known as the Community Methodist Church. In 1968, Methodist churches nationwide merged with Evangelical United Brethren churches and by 1970 this church had been renamed the First United Methodist Church of McHenry.

January 23, 1976 marked a major change in how the worship service was conducted. Up until then only the choir sang at a service, but, on this date, the congregation joined in the singing. This started an important Methodist tradition which has continued up to the present time.

In January 1886, the bell that is still in use today was first rung. It was cast in 1854 in St. Louis, MO by F.R.Mayer & Co., from solid brass. One side of the bell has a picture of Jesus carrying the cross to Golgatha and the other side has a picture of an empty cross. There is an inscription written in German which translates as "whoever perseveres to the end is holy."

The church has been remodeled many times. In 1937, the men of the congregation dug the basement under the original church for a kitchen, dining room, Sunday school room and washroom. In 1946, sound-proofing was added to the building and two more Sunday school rooms were built. A two-story education wing was added in 1953 which gave extra rooms for the Sunday school, offices, nursery and a pastor's study. In 1964, the parlor was remodeled as a meeting room by the Lee Marshall's and, in 1979, ground was broken for the addition of a new sanctuary. The original front door was retained and, today, welcomes people into the narthex. Many of the current members still remember the narthex as being the sanctuary prior to the 1979 construction project. The stained glass window that was installed at the front of the original church was moved and slightly enlarged before being placed above the current altar.

Throughout the years the church has received many generous donations. In 1946 a new electric organ was given by the Howard Wattles family. This was replaced in 1957 by a pipe organ donated by the Woodstock Methodist Church. The young married couples club, Sunday Nighters, donated the painting, "Christ at Gethsemane", which has hung for a number of years in the fellowship hall. Stained glass windows were donated in 1964 from various memorials. The Stinespring family presented the large stained glass window which is above the altar. The window above the front door was dedicated to Gregg Cain. The Stinesprings also donated the carillons, which are still used weekly, in memory of Sue Stinespring Cain and Jackie Stinespring. The original set of hand bells was given in memory of Harry Stinespring and later augmented by other memorials. Various families donated pews for the new addition. Many of the altar cloths currently used were donated to the church as memorials. Funds have been contributed for special memorial plaques. The generosity of the members has also extended to creating a number of annual memorial scholarships which are offered to both members of the church and the general community.

For over 150 years this church has been active and influential in the McHenry community. The members take seriously the Methodist motto of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors." All are welcome.