Monday, July 20, 2015

Route 66 OKC Loop: Wesley Methodist Church

Historic Route 66 - where you can get your 'kicks' according to an old pop song, is commonly known for the major points along its route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Usually those points are known because of that popular song and just as it says, Oklahoma City is very pretty and in the days of the major use of Route  66 (pre Interstate) travelers would have passed by Wesley United Methodist Church.  The light shining through its stained glass windows in the evening just might have been what was in mind when the city was declared to be pretty.

Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the home of Mrs. A.H. Tyler, 1220 NW 29th, on November 10, 1910. In the meeting were the first 28 charter members of the nascent church.  The first pastor was the Rev. F.A. Colwell appointed by Bishop Quayle of the Oklahoma Methodist Episcopal Conference.

The first church location was a simple structure with a sawdust covered floor.  The "Tabernacle", as it was then called, was located at 32nd and Military (32′ x 70′ ). The 1910 Journal of Methodist Episcopal Church, newspapers, and other documents indicate the Conference held at Alva, Oklahoma assigned the first pastor.  In October of 1910,  Frank A. Colwell as appointed pastor and  D. G. Murray was District Superintendent of this district.
 
In 1911, the congregation moved to NW 25th and Classen and in 1928 dedicated the lovely Gothic sanctuary with its large organ and many stained glass windows. A triangle of land in front of the church was deeded and developed by early Oklahoma pioneer business leader, Anton H. Classen

and his wife.  In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal, South and the Methodist Protest Church formed a union to become the Methodist Church.  In 1968, the Methodist Church allied with the Evangelical and United Brethern churches to form the new United Methodist Church.


One time mayor of Oklahoma City, Jack S. Wilkes (April 9, 1963 - May 3, 1964)  had served as President of Oklahoma City University from 1957 to 1963. After that, for a year he served as pastor of Wesley Methodist Church. 

"Wilkes ran for Mayor with the backing of the Association for Responsible Government (ARG), an organization promoting efficiency and integrity in City government.  The election was dominated by concerns about metropolitan planning, Urban Renewal and the retention of the Mayor-Council-Manager form of government....During Mayor Wilkes’ time in office, City government became more centralized and citizens passed a sales tax to buttress the City’s finances.   The City’s Airport Trust received a large grant for improvements at Will Rogers World Airport and over $317 million was committed toward City growth.  The City also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Land Run in 1964.  Mayor Wilkes resigned in May of 1964 to become President of Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana." (City of Oklahoma City)

Today, the church is nestled in an area poised to experience a rennaissance in business, residences, and community.  A newly identified "Asian District" highlights the presence and contributions of Asians in Oklahoma City and the Paseo Art District.  Nearby are several historic residential areas: Edgemere and Crown Heights, Gatewood, Military Park, Mesta Park, Heritage Hills.  

Just a block west of Wesley is Oklahoma City University and the two have enjoyed a close relationship since the school relocated to Oklahoma City in 1919 from Guthrie.  The music department at OCU and the music program at Wesley have enjoined a special relationship as Deans of that department and faculty there have frequently served as Music director for Wesley.  The worship arts of music, choir, organ, drama, and speech have been enriched by this tie and Wesley was often viewed as 'university church.'




 
Links - Additional information about the area of Route 6 can be found at http://mystorical.blogspot.com/2013/06/historic-route-66-in-oklahoma-city.html
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson

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