The Methodist Church in Marceline celebrates the 75th anniversary of its founding in 1963, the same year that the city of Marceline observes its 75th anniversary. The Church has chosen as its motto for this celebration, “Forward with Faith.” It was in the spirit of faith that the early Methodist circuit-riders went forth to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was in this same spirit that the early congregation decided to build the first house of worship in Marceline, and it is in this spirit that we present this history, not in the sense of glorifying the achievements of the past, but seeking, through a study of the past, to determine what God’s mission is for those who call themselves Methodists. It is our prayer that God will ever lead us into new avenues of witnessing and serving in the present and in the future. Our watchword must ever be “Forward with Faith.”
The first Methodist Sunday-School and congregation was actually organized within the present corporate city limits before the city was built. This congregation was formed in 1870 and met at the little country meeting-house known as Locust Ridge. Locust Ridge was situated on what is now described as Block 12 on West Broadway. Preaching services at Locust Ridge depended on the monthly visits of circuit-riding Preachers. One of the early preachers who continued to hold a close association with this Church was The Rev. J. D. Mendenhall, who preached at Locust Ridge meeting house as a circuit-rider, and who on October 8, 1888, preached a sermon of dedication in The Methodist Church here. 24 years later, on March 24, 1912, the same J. D. Mendenhall, who was then Pastor of the congregation, stood in the present Church building for the dedication of the building which had been completed under his leadership.
With the building of Marceline as a division point on the Santa Fe Railway, a Methodist Minister, the Rev. J. E. Rutledge, was appointed on April 2, 1888, to become the first Methodist Minister serving our community after the beginning of the city. His first sermon was preached on April 15, 1888, in the home of Wm. Combs, who lived a short distance north of the Mt. Olive Cemetery. The first prayer meeting was held on the following Thursday night. It was only twenty days after the first sermon, that the Trustees of the Church decided to build, purchasing four lots (25 x 150 feet each) from the Santa Fe Town and Land Company. The building was completed within nine months time.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was also established in 1888 in Marceline, the Rev. W. Toole being appointed the first Preacher in charge. The Church building in which this congregation worshipped has been converted into a residence and still stands at 115 West Santa Fe Street. The North and the South branches of the Church merged in 1908, a harbinger of the union of these branches of Methodism on a national level in 1939. The Rev. J. D. Mendenhall, then Pastor, wrote of this experience which led to plans for building. “After much talking and planning the first year, the second year we sold the old church and grounds and secured a most excellent location on the corner of the two principal streets of the city, built and dedicated the first modern church in Marceline.”
The remodeling and refurnishing of the Sanctuary was accomplished during the ministry of The Rev. J. Vernon Wheeler, thus providing a reverent atmosphere for the sacred services of the Church. The newly re-finished Sanctuary was consecrated by Bishop Eugene M. Frank on March 2, 1958.
It is with gratitude for the many blessings of God that we here recount the Faith of Our Fathers. And as we remember our history, it is with a prayer that the great faithfulness of our Fathers may be ours also, as we go “Forward with Faith.”