In 1888, the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Irving Park was organized with 27 charter members. It was an outgrowth of a cottage prayer meeting that was started by Father George S. Moore, who lived in Mayfair. Rev. George M. Ryder, a student of Garrett Biblical Institute, was invited to lead these meetings with the results that he was appointed to be a supply pastor by the Presiding Elder. The church was organized during his pastorate.
Looking forward to a church home of their own, they purchased a lot on North Forty-First Court adjoining the grounds of the Irving Park Grade School. This lot was later sold to the Board of Education, and two corner lots (100 x 173) were secured at our present location, Keeler Avenue and Grace Street. At that time, Keeler Avenue was called “North Forty-Second Avenue.”
The "neat building of wood with a spire," shown here, was erected at a cost of $8,000 and was dedicated January 3, 1892. A $2,500 mortgage was carried on the property for 12 years. On May 27, 1900, subscriptions were taken to liquidate this debt.
The growing congregation soon needed larger quarters. Because they were not financially strong enough to put up with a complete new church, it was decided to erect the Chapel, or Sunday school section firsts, and then add the auditorium later. Ground was broken June 1, 1907, and the Chapel dedicated February 16, 1908. The cost of this work was $17,000.
After paying for the chapel, pledges were taken to cover the erection of the new auditorium. The corner stone for this was laid June 1, 1912, and on April 13 the following year, it was dedicated as “a beautiful temple to God … with the trust that it may be used for many years for the extension of his Kingdom.”
In 1952, after 40 years of service to the needs of thousands of individuals and to the community at large, the building was in need of remodeling and expansion. The Chapel building was remodeled and enlarged to create more room for the greatly overcrowded Church School. The work was completed in early Spring of 1953.
In January of 1956, a fine brick residence on Keeler Avenue, opposite the church property, was purchased to serve as a new parsonage. The building was remodeled and redecorated before the pastor, Mr. Wilbur M. Childress, moved in early in May 1956. A lot located three doors North of the church at 3815 North Keeler had been purchased previously for the purpose of erecting a new parsonage. This lot, together with the house that had been serving as a parsonage, was sold and the old parsonage moved and placed upon the lot, leaving the property immediately adjacent to the church for expansion of the church building.
A major renovation was completed in the 1960s and the church mortgage was paid off.
In the 1970s, the Irving Park Food Pantry had its beginning in the organizing efforts of Leila Duncan, who began carrying food to neighbors who didn't have enough to eat. Today The Irving Park Community Food Pantry is a separate organization, one of the largest pantries in the city of Chicago -- and still located in its home setting, Irving Park United Methodist Church.
In 1986, Irving Park United Methodist Church officially became a Reconciling congregation, an official statement of what had been fact in the congregation for a number of years. Irving Park United Methodist Church was one of the first Reconciling churches in Chicago, and is still active in the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches. For quite a number of years the Reconciling Church movement, later named the Reconciling Ministries Network, made this its home for offices and staff.
More church renovations have been underway over the past few years. Come for a visit and learn about the rest of our rich history as well as what’s happening on the corner of Grace and Keeler in Old Irving Park today!
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