Our history begins more than 100 years ago, when a small chapel was built just south of what we know as Waynedale. Land had been donated by Mr. Charles Dalman for the chapel and it was used by several protestant congregations. Total cost for the chapel was $1,150.00 including 2 stoves, an organ and the pews.
In 1903, some of the worshipers from the little chapel formed the Union Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church on the Fort Wayne Circuit. These 11 charter members included David Greider, Ellen and Lida Hoke, Cora, Nora and John Prince, Hattie Krill, Edward and Maggie Koons, and Aaron and Alice Wells. Reverend Enoch Bunner, the first pastor, served five churches. A service was held every other Sunday at 7:30 pm at Union Chapel. By the end of the year 1903, sixteen others had joined the church, including Manford Lee and Norman Prince. According to Reverend Bunner in a letter he wrote in 1942, “I am surely glad I had a part in starting the first Methodist Episcopal class that eventually started Waynedale Church. We had our ups and downs. But like the poet wrote, ‘but the cares of our life will be nothing when we come to the end of our way,’ victory came and has culminated in the Waynedale United Methodist Church. The Union Chapel folks were good cooks, many chickens went into the ministry.”
In 1919, our church group and the Monson Chapel group separated from the Fort Wayne Circuit and joined together to become the Waynedale Methodist Episcopal Church. With a membership of 65, a small group of worshipers approached A.S. Elzey from Ossian, to become our pastor. He agreed, working for 6 years with no salary. The congregation moved to the Waynedale Public School Building, then to a remodeled barn on Huntington Road. In 1924 a move was made to a large apartment house on Bluffton Road, which is now Elzey, Patterson, Rodak Home for Funerals on Old Trail Road.
In 1925 a building campaign was launched. Church members pledged their support, many by mortgaging their homes. The first step was the building of a parsonage in 1926 at the corner of Church Street and Old Trail Road. The land was donated by A.S. Elzey and included enough land for a church building. Also in 1926, was purchased a building from the Allen County Farm (Orphans Home and County Infirmary), which was being sold and dismantled. After the purchase by Mr. Andrew Rehm and Mr. Louis Wiegman, it became the church members’ job to dismantle the building and move it in horse-drawn wagons to the church site. Men, women and children worked to clean the bricks and get the materials into shape to be reused. Because of their perseverance, ground was broken for the church building in April 1927, the cornerstone was laid in August 1927, and the building was dedicated on March 18, 1928 under the leadership of Reverend Carl Adams. Membership that day was 183. The entire cost of the building was $32,222.63.
The depression struck in 1929, causing a financial crisis in the church. Many members lost their jobs and their pledges were impossible to pay. Through prayer, dedication and hard work, the trustees assumed personal added indebtedness by mortgaging their homes. Members held church suppers, plays and fellowship gatherings. Reverend H.A. Kirk appealed to the Board of Home Missions and Church Extensions for help to meet the cost of the mortgage. They agreed to loan $8,000.00 if the church raised $4,000.00 within two months. The mortgage was paid off in 1934.
In 1951, with a membership over 800, the congregation again felt the need to build. In 1956 ground was broken for an Educational Unit. The consecration unit for the Susannah Wesley Hall was on February 21, 1957. For a total cost of $230,000, the 3-floor 15,000 square foot unit was built. Included were a dining room and kitchen in the basement, a nursery, kindergarten room, office, pastors’ study and Sunday school office on the first floor and an intermediate youth room, senior high room and kitchenette on the second floor.
Church attendance continued to grow through the years and eventually the sanctuary could not meet the needs of the congregation, so in 1975, ground was broken for a new sanctuary. The cost for the newest addition was over $700,000.00. On May 9, 1976, the congregation celebrated by meeting in the old sanctuary to begin worship, then proceeded to the new sanctuary, with our guests, Bishop Elia Peters and his wife from India cutting the ribbon. Members have enjoyed the use of the new sanctuary, chapel, gym, fellowship hall and new ground-level kitchen.
The building was once again upgraded in the late 1990’s. The roof was replaced, we installed new carpeting in the sanctuary, narthex, hallways and stairwells, new heating and cooling systems, lighting, energy efficient windows and a remodeled office area and library prepared our building for the new millennium.
As our building has continued to grow, God has continued to work through us to reach others and share His news. Waynedale United Methodist Church has two Sunday worship services and several Sunday school classes. Many additional ministries have been part of our church history, including youth and adult choirs, hand bells, sponsorship of a Cambodian refugee family, Prison Fellowship, support of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, tape ministry for shut-ins, prayer chain, Red Cross training and shelter, UMW Circles, UMW bazaar, UMYF, Conscience dinners, car washes, fundraisers, confirmation classes, church camps, Institute, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, AA, VBS, mission projects and others.
Ministry has been our heritage and will lead us into the future…as we prepare to celebrate our next 100 years in Christ!
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