Our Story

Our Story

The beginnings of Methodism in Clinton date from 1839, when the newly formed Methodist Society of seven to ten members met monthly in private residences to hear the sermons of circuit riding preachers.  Later that same year, the Methodists moved their meetings to the newly constructed Dewitt County Courthouse, into the 14’ x 22’ office of John McGraw, County Clerk.  This was the same year Clinton became the county seat of Dewitt County.  Gabriel Watt was the first preacher.

Following several years of growth in membership, The Clinton Methodist Episcopal Church constructed and dedicated its first church home in 1848, a frame building located on the southeast corner of East Adams and South Madison Streets.  It is said to have cost about $500, excluding the cost of the seats and the bell.  The church was heated with two tall wood stoves and featured divided seating, the men on the north, and the women on the south.  Children usually sat with their mothers.  Worship services were held once every four weeks, but “Sabbath School” met weekly.

In 1855 the Clinton Methodists separated from Circuit and formed a self-supporting independent station, with worship services each Sunday.  Rev. Alexander Semple was the first full time minister.  By 1859 expansion of the “Sabbath School” required construction of an addition to the old church structure, under the leadership of Rev. Joseph Montgomery.  Their Sabbath School met weekly, and the young people were given prizes annually for their recitations.  Prizes were awarded to William Andrews for reciting 6,250 Bible verses, Bill Catterlin for 5,950, and Kate Wolfe for 3, 615 verses.

After nearly ten years of planning, in 1868 the first shovelful of dirt was turned for the construction of a new brick building for the Methodist Episcopal Church on the corner of East Main and South Madison Streets.  In June, 1869, the basement was completed where worship services were held for two years.  In 1871 the large sanctuary with its beautifully fresco panels, arched roof, and stained glass windows was completed.  The total cost of the new edifice exceeded $32,000.  It took several years of suppers, ice cream socials, and special pledge meetings before all bills were paid off in December 1874.  The impressive new church would serve as a house of worship for seventy years.  In 1884 membership was reported to be 650 and Sunday School 300.  A remodeling program was initiated in 1898.  The towers were lowered, new pews were installed, and a balcony was added for additional seating space.

During 1925 the church bought adjoining property and planned to build a new Church with an educational building.  However, due to financial conditions, only the educational building was constructed and dedicated on April 3, 1932 as Geer Hall. Mr. and Mrs. George W. Geer gave their personal and real estate to the Clinton United Methodist Church, which provided about half the cost of the 32 room educational plant, so in was named in their honor.

The Methodist Church celebrated its one-hundredth birthday in October 1939, and at the same time, said farewell to the old church building, which was condemned and razed.  The only thing left of this era is a stone, which was used by the women to get out of their buggies.  The stone is located on the west side of the present day sanctuary.  The auditorium, including the balcony, was filled with worshippers, both morning and evening services for the closing service.  The people crowded into the aisles, clasped hands, and sang “Blest Be The Tie That Binds.”  The organ was dismantled, the rostrum, pews and other furniture moved to the Great Hall of Geer Hall, where the church services were held.

In 1952 a new church committee was formed.  They had a financial campaign and the present sanctuary was erected in 1953 and was open in February for the worship service.  Rev. Kenneth C. Knox provided the spiritual leadership during this time.  The beautiful church was dedicated on April 8th 1956 with Rev. Walter Theobald serving the congregation.  The large south window over the altar was a memorial to honor the Kenneth C. Knox family.

October 18, 1964 the church attempted dual morning worship services and had an increase of 50% in membership. The First Methodist Church observed their 125th anniversary with the printing of the church history and special services.

A new parsonage was built and dedicated October 15, 1972.  Rev. Burt McIntosh and family were the first to move from the old parsonage at 222 West Main Street to the house on Rosewood.

In 1973 Birkbeck Methodist Church closed and was absorbed into the Clinton Church.  The Charles Gentry family bought the church building, which stands as a memorial to the spiritual life in Birkbeck and Harp townships.

The air-conditioning for the sanctuary was given as a memorial gift by Werner C. Vollrath in memory of his wife Anna.  It was dedicated August 31, 1975.  During the fall of 1977 our church started a radio ministry to reach out to others.  In 1979 the church celebrated their 140th birthday with a huge celebration in Great Hall with many past ministers and wives present to reminisce about our church.  The Fosnaugh family presented a new sanctuary organ during 1979 with a sound system to follow from memorial funds in 1980.  The Prayer room was also remodeled and furnished in 1979.

In 1981 Prairie Center Church closed and was absorbed into the Clinton Church.  Funds and furnishings from both Birkbeck and Prairie Center were used to redecorate the chapel of the Clinton Church.

1984 marked the 200th year of American Methodism in America.  Our church celebrated with Bicentennial messages being brought each Sunday by members of the congregation.  The ladies of the church made a beautiful quilt, which hangs in the hallway.

November 30, 1987 the church dedicated the addition of a portal, elevator, vestibule, and storage area that was built on the back of the education building (Geer Hall) at a cost of $95,000.   Another addition to our church family also came in 1987, when Shiloh and Center Chapel Churches closed and many members joined our church.

In 1998 the church started a financial campaign to modify the current building.  A new heating/cooling system was installed and a new concrete parking lot was laid.  Great Hall was renovated with new lights, stage curtains, sound system, stage lighting, a new floor, and two new bathrooms.