Our Beginning and Our Buildings
Plainfield United Methodist Church is the oldest Methodist congregation in the Northern Illinois Conference. Our buildings over the years are only the external signs of the internal realities of God’s grace and our people’s faithfulness to Christ. Our congregation continues to grow, both in numbers and in faith. Plainfield United Methodist Church seeks to serve those who are a part of our congregation as well as those within the Plainfield community and beyond.
Reverend Jesse Walker, “The Daniel Boone of Methodism,” was a circuit rider who traveled throughout Missouri and Illinois on horseback spreading the gospel message. As a missionary to the Indians, Reverend Walker followed the Illinois River on horseback. In 1823, after continuing along the DuPage River, he arrived at a Pottawatomie Indian village. Shortly after, Reverend Walker sent for his son-in-law, James and his wife to come and help in his Christian work. In 1829, James Walker and ten settlers formed the first Methodist Class in “Walker’s Grove,” now Plainfield. A Methodist Class was a small group of people who met weekly to learn Christian doctrine and discuss their relationship with God.
The first Methodist meeting place was a log cabin measuring 14×14 feet, near the intersection of Joliet Rd. and Route 59. Methodists also met in homes for study and prayer. The 1832 Methodist Conference appointed Reverend S.R. Beggs as the second pastor of our Methodist Church. Reverend S.R. Beggs took out subscriptions to build the first Methodist Church in Plainfield. The Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Route 59 and the west corner of Ottawa Street, was completed in 1838. When not in use by the Methodists, the church was used by various denominations and as a school.
After years of continued settlement and growth, the need for a new structure arose. In 1848 Plainfield Methodist Episcopal Church, centered on the north side of Lockport Street, was constructed and became a station. Before PMEC became a station, previous pastors were Circuit Riders traveling from church to church, village to village on horseback. Reverend Jonathan Stoughton was the first full-time minister of our station, which allowed the minister to be more involved in the lives of the parishioners and the community.
Methodism continued to expand as people settled in the area. In 1866 the first rendition of our current building was constructed. The church measured 52 by 70 feet and had a spire that reached 125 feet. The project cost $20,000. The stone for the building came from a near-by quarry. “O God Our Help in Ages Past” could be seen inscribed in stone on the original tower. The original windows of the building were replaced by beautiful stained glass as they broke over the years. In 1907 James Beggs and John Shreffler donated The Chime of 10 Bells (PDF) located in the steeple of the building.
A Social Center was constructed in 1921 to serve the church and surrounding community. Eventually, the cost and upkeep made the center a burden for the church. The building was first rented out as a theater, then a bank. It was later razed to make way for the 1966 addition. In 1952 an addition was made to the west side of the church to provide classrooms and a kitchen. In 1966 a church office, pastor’s study, elevator, chapel, and new entrance were added. The new tower entrance was inscribed with “Our Hope For Years To Come” when construction was complete in 1969.
In 1996 Plainfield United Methodist Church appointed a building committee to oversee changes that could be made to our existing building to address the challenges of more people and too little space. In 2004 the 1966 addition was demolished and construction began. The sanctuary was remodeled and a two-story wing was added for classrooms, offices, and gathering spaces. During the remodel the congregation met for worship at Lincoln Elementary School. This project was made possible in large part by the generous donations left by the estates of Janet Brown and Dick and Dorothy Parks. Their investment in our community and church’s future has allowed the ministries of our church to flourish with necessary space and equipment. The new addition was dedicated in March of 2005.