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In the beginning

From a tiny mission church to a growing congregation with
three Sunday services, John Wesley UMC has thrived thanks to
the blessings of God and the stalwart faith of members
who saw the need for a Methodist house of worship west of the Ashley.

On June 18, 1944 the first worship service for John Wesley United Methodist Church was held in St. Andrews Exchange Club led by Reverend R. Bryce Herbert. On September 3, 1944, Reverend Edward W. Gott was appointed to be our pastor.  The next month, Rev. Gott performed John Wesley UMC’s first wedding, marrying Haskell Thompson and Milford Smith on October 1, 1944. They were not church members but during the war years, people just found a preacher to marry them.  Many of the early weddings recorded did not include church members.

Old Exchange Building photo
The Old Exchange Building was the site of the first meetings of the congregation for John Wesley UMC

John Wesley UMC started out as a mission church. At that time, Methodists had to go to North Charleston or the Peninsula to attend services. So with the support of District Superintendent Homer L.F. Schuler, Margaret Dukes began visiting homes in St. Andrews Parish to determine the interest in starting a Methodist church here. Those conversations established a clear need for a church that would become John Wesley UMC.

Other Methodist churches also saw the need and contributed money to help purchase land along Savannah Highway. The Trustees paid a total of $6,400 for eight lots as the site of the future church thanks to the assistance of these churches:

  • Asbury Methodist gave $1,250,
  • Bethel Methodist gave $1,708,
  • Trinity Methodist gave $1,250
  • Spring Methodist gave $289. 

The members of John Wesley raised the remaining $2,200 between October and Christmas 1944, relying primarily on picnics and dinners. During that first summer, ministers of the supporting churches took turns preaching until Rev. Gott was appointed as permanent pastor in September 1944.

To put the cost of living in perspective, The People History lists these prices for standard goods in 1945:

Average cost of new house – $4,600
Average wages per year – $2,400
Cost of a gallon of gas – 15 cents
Average rent for house – $60 per month
Average cost new car – $1,020
Ladies fur coat – $70
Men’s shirt – $2.50
Girl’s dolls house – $3.19
Portable typewriter – $68.37
Girl’s dolls house – $3.19

The founding members always wanted a church with a steeple but they knew that Sunday school and a meeting place for other events were the most urgent needs. So, they first built the educational building followed by the parsonage, which was next door.

The educational building, which was completed in November 1946, consisted of two floors including an auditorium-like room with a small kitchen and classrooms. The parsonage and educational building were paid off in 1949 and the congregation immediately started fundraising to build the sanctuary.