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The first year – From the diary of Margaret Dukes

Ed. note: Margaret Dukes canvassed neighborhoods west of the Ashley to talk about the need for a new Methodist church. She faithfully recorded the early months in her diary which is transcribed below. Headings have been added to her original text.

The beginnings of a new church are first in the dreams, thoughts, plans and prayers of spiritually-minded individuals.  Thus it is that the church across the Ashley has existed in intangible form for several years.  There were those who foresaw the need of a Methodist church in the area …. Had the mission of the church at heart and were willing to work for its realization.  To those residents with true vision we pay tribute, acknowledge our indebtedness, for they are the true founders of our church.

Margaret Dukes
Margaret Dukes, first historian of John Wesley UMC

The Methodist ministers of Charleston – Reverend John M. Shingler, Reverend Gobe Smith, Reverend R. Bryce Herbert and Reverend R. Wright Spears under the leadership of the District Superintendent  Rev. h. L. T Shuler began laying plans in the winter of 1944 for the beginning of an organization in St. Andrew’s Parish.  It seemed advisable to have a full-time worker who would use the summer months for surveying the Community, visiting and working towards an early organization of a church school and church.

On the first of June, 1944, the ministers of the city and the summer workers began the visitation program.  The churches in the city learned of the project through their ministers [and] . . . . . . Spring St., Asbury Memorial, Bethel and Trinity were helping to sponsor the new organization and had a keen interest in its programs.

 

Our interest is centered not in what has been but in what is to be.  The Church Across – the – Ashley will serve a growing people
in a changing world.

— Margaret Dukes

The first Sunday service

Indeed, a people who sees the church views from a small plant to glorious fruition has a deep and abiding loyalty in its growth.  With that truth in their hearts, thirty two gathered in the Exchange Club building on the hot afternoon of June 18 for their first church service.  The Reverend Bryce Herbert led the worship after which a church school was organized.  Their [sic] were five classes: the adults and the senior – young people with Mr. M. L. McCrae as teacher; the Intermediates with Mrs. Marjorie Peale;  The Juniors, with Mrs. C.E. Williams; the Primaries with Ms. Orvie Mae Ilderton; and the Cradle Rolls with Mrs. J. Clyde Leitch and Mrs. T. J. Ellsworth.  Mrs. H.C. Davis and Mrs. C. A. Kinsey were the pianists.

The Exchange Club of the Parish had kindly given its consent to our using the building and the ministers of the city were happy to bring the morning message.  The first group of worshippers decided to have succeeding services on Sunday mornings from ten A.M. to Eleven- forty-five with the church service preceding the church schools.

The first summer

On the second Sunday, sixty-four heard Mr. Shuler tell of future plans.  The youth of the church were eager to have week day meetings with experiences of work and play.  In Marion Miller[‘]s home, the Intermediates had their first meeting on July the fifth.  The Senior – Young People came together at Doris Myers[‘]  on July the twelfth to decide on a unit for discussion.  The group chose Christian Home – making for its bi-monthly meetings.

The men of the Church discussed a site for building and other matters pertaining to the growth of the church on July the seventeenth at the George Seignious’ home.  Mr. M. L. McCrae, Mr. John Dempsey and Mr. G.W. Seignious were appointed to act as a committee for the investigation of available sites.

The temporary officers were elected on Sunday, August the thirteenth.  Mr. M. L. McCrae was chosen Superintendent of the Church School and Mr. J. L. Dempsey as Treasurer.  Rev. R.W. Spears brought the welcome news at the morning service on August the twentieth that Rev. Edward W. Gott would be the first full-time minister of the new Church.  Our interest is centered not in what has been but in what is to be.  The Church Across – the – Ashley will serve a growing people in a changing world.

Margaret Dukes
Summer Worker 1944

page from Margaret Duke's diary
Last page of Margaret Duke’s diary

A name and other beginnings — Fall 1944

On September 3, 1944, Rev. Edward W. Gott and his bride arrived to assume charge of the John Wesley Methodist Church (then not named).  During the first month the church continued to grow and a Women’s Society of Christian Service was organized.  October 5, 1944 marks a red-letter day in the history of John Wesley Church for it was then the church was formally organized with 107 Charter members.  (Ed. note:  The actual number of charter members for John Wesley UMC is 124 which counts those who thought spouses had signed for them and some who missed that particular Sunday. See paragraph below.) 

From Oct 25th – Oct 29th the minister attended Annual Conf. and our very first report showed 124 members. 

Officers for the church were selected and a generous offering for the Crusade for Christ was given. Ms. Shuler presided over the services. 

On Oct. 22nd the Church was named at a Church Conference.  The name John Wesley was given to the Church.  Also John Wesley Church had the distinction of being the first to make a contribution to the Crusades for Christ in S.C. Conf.

Mr. Shuler brought greetings and preached the first sermon of the Conference year on November 5th.  Rev. Edward w. Gott was appointed full time pastor for the conference year.  Evening services were begun with the Evening of November 5th.

During the month of Nov., it was decided to purchase the lots known as the Old Italian Prison Camp for the site of the church.  A well attended Thanksgiving Service was held November 29 at which an offering was taken toward the purchase of the site.  This offering finally grew to $1900 and with $4500 given by the city churches the lots were bought and paid for.

On November 14, our first supper was held at Coburg Dairy.  A Christmas Bazaar was given in December. Lovely Christmas programs were given on Dec. 17th and Dec. 24th.

In Dec 1944 our first member was received by Profession of faith – Miss Sue Sanders.

Completing the first year

On February 9, 1945 the following building committee was formally elected although most of them had been serving for some time:  Mr. L. McCrae, Chairman, Mr. Id E, Blocker, Secry[sic], and acting Chair, Mr. J. G. Altman, Treas., Mr. G. W. Seignious, Mr. J. T. Dempsey, Mrs. W. R. Richardson, Mr. W. T. Parsons (who later resigned) and Mr. Julian Limehouse, who took the place of Mr. Parsons.

Our First Laymen’s Day was appropriately observed February 25th with Mr. Bob Meachrum, guest speaker. During the months of Jan. and Feb. our first Church Mission Study Class was held.

On Palm Sunday, March 25, our class of 12 boys and girls were received into Church on Easter Sunday. We climaxed our first bld [sic] fund campaign with nearly $7,000 raised, I believe.

Our first Church School Rally Day was held in April with a splendid program being given on Mother’s Day, five infants were baptized and a splendid program was given.

In June we held our first Vacation Church School which was very successful – 73 being enrolled. Also we were represented at the Conference for Christian workers and Youth Assembly.

The outstanding event in July was our fourth of July picnic at Mullett Hall.

On October 7, 1945 – our first Anniversary was celebrated with an appropriate service officers of Church School were installed and communion administered.

Other events of importance during the Church year were:

  • Moving of Minister into parsonage
  • Various suppers
  • Winning  of Y.P. [possibly Young People] of attendance prize for Charleston sub-district
  • Organization of Young Adult Class
  • Birth of Son of Parsonage family
  • Baptism of babies
  • Morning Worship Services
  • Even [sic] Vespers
  • Church School
  • Fourth 2.C. with fine report
  • Steady Progress toward building
  • Stephen Thomas served as Architect