Wesley UMC celebrates 150 years

By JENELLE JOHNSON
Family Living Editor

Members of Wesley United Methodist Church first convened in September 1859 in the unfinished home of Josiah and Iola Colborn. To celebrate its sesquicentennial, the public is invited to join members at 11 a.m. Sunday in Riverside Park for services and a picnic.
The Rev. Tedd Inman of Topeka will take on the persona of John Wesley and deliver several of Wesley’s messages at the service.
Wesley and his brother Charles are credited with founding the Methodist movement, which began when he took to open-air preaching. Wesley liked to stand on stumps and tombstones when he delivered his messages, to get people’s attention and so he could be heard, said Trudy Kenyon Anderson, Wesley’s pastor.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the Rev. Inman stood on a table during his message,” Kenyon Anderson said.
Other aspects of the celebration include the fact Kenyon Anderson is WUMC’s first female pastor, and that the congregation is back within its church building at 301 E. Madison following a fire that damaged the sanctuary Nov. 25, 2007.
“We thought we would be back in a few months, but it took 15 months before we walked back into the church on Feb. 8 of this year,” Kenyon Anderson said.

ACCORDING TO THE church’s history, lots on the corner of Broadway and Jefferson were bought Feb. 14, 1870, for $100. A frame building was dedicated in April. Trustees sold the first church building to the Catholics on Aug. 11, 1900, for $1,600 and purchased a lot on the corner of Madison and Buckeye, WUMC’s current location.
A brick edifice was dedicated on Aug. 25, 1901. After 14 years it was torn down and a larger structure built. The present church was dedicated Nov. 5, 1916.
Membership continued to grow and reached 1,085 in 1922. During the Depression and World War II, membership shrank considerably.
When the Rev. E.E. Tillotson came to Iola in 1948, the church began to prosper and membership rose to 900. In 1960, the church’s centennial, a new Moller organ was given to WUMC by Thomas A. Bowlus in memory of his parents.
In 1968, to meet conditions of unification with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the church’s name was changed from First Methodist Church to Wesley United Methodist Church.
The church has been involved in community projects for many years, including Iola Community Pantry and sponsoring Scout troops. A cooperative Vacation Bible School, jointly administered with First Presbyterian and First Christian, is still an important part of the children’s program.