The History Of WilmetteTrinity United Methodist Church
It all began in 1874, when the “First Methodist Church” – the oldest church in Ouilmette – was formally organized. For only $180 annually the Methodists were able to rent the narrow frame building that had been used for worship by several religious groups.
- Membership in 1874: 23
- Sunday School enrollment in 1874: 103
- Salary of the first pastor, Samuel Lathrop: $350
The pastor lived wherever he could find a room in the settlement. Men of the congregation kept the furnace fires burning in the winter and shoveled snow from the wooden sidewalks. In the summer, when heavy rains floated the walks down the muddy roads, the congregation hauled them back into place.
Prayer meetings were held on Wednesday nights, and parishioners walked to the church through the woods, lighting their way with lanterns. News of church activities was posted on an Indian trail tree nearby.
In 1885 the pastor, R.W. Bland, reported: “While the year has been encouraging, we had no deaths, no weddings, no additions, no complaints.”
Soon after the turn of the century, the congregation had grown to over 200 members, and the beloved old frame church was no longer adequate. A rounded, salmon-colored brick building was erected on the same site and was dedicated in 1909. The present Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago contributed $1,000 toward the construction. The name of the church was changed at that time to the Wilmette Parish Methodist Church.
A bold decision was made in 1927. With a membership approaching 800 and church school enrollment of more than 500, church leaders voted to build a new church in the style of an English Gothic cathedral. Completed in 1930, the building was magnificent and inspiring. The Depression, however, ruined the church’s financial program and left members wondering each week, “Will this be the last Sunday we can worship here?” With unwavering faith and tireless work, members pulled together to pay off the mortgage over the next 20 years.
Stained glass windows, gifts of members and friends, replaced the plain glass windows in the early 1950s. During the 1960s membership approached 2,000, with the Tri Mu youth group becoming known through the area for its vital ministry. Ten of our teenagers experienced God’s call to attend seminary, so that they could become church leaders and pastors.