A Brief History Of Community United Methodist Church - Elm Grove, Wisconsin
By Jennifer Klett, church historian
Watch the History of the Church on YouTube !!!
A Methodist Church?
In 1948, a small group of people met to discuss the need for a Methodist church in the Brookfield, Elm Grove area. World War II had ended three years earlier, and the baby boom was underway. Parents felt their children needed “Sunday” schooling. There were no Protestant churches in the area, which was quickly becoming suburbia.
A survey taken later that year revealed there was a real desire for such a church. In 1949, a site committee evaluated three possible locations, and concluded that a three and a half acre parcel at Watertown Plank and Highland Roads was best. Appropriately, the site was part of Mission Hills subdivision.
Humble Beginnings at Leland School
On Sunday, September 25, 1949 the first service and “church” school was held at Leland School. The congregation sat on folding chairs in the school lunchroom. Leland School, once located just south of the Elm Grove Women’s Club parking lot on Watertown Plank and Sunny Slope Roads, would become the church’s home for the next six years. The school no longer stands.
On October 10, 1949, 37 charter members were listed. Nearby St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church lent their small electric organ for services. The growing congregation of over 300 members celebrated a church groundbreaking in the rain exactly five years later in 1954. The next year a cornerstone was laid, and parishioners and neighbors watched the raising of the church’s 80 foot spire.
“Ageless Colonial Charm”
Community Methodist Church held their consecration service in their new church on October 16, 1955. A donated original painting, Madonna and Child, which still hangs in the church today, was displayed over the baptismal font. A 1953 building brochure stated that the architects had “caught our hearts’ vision of a church with the welcoming warmth of ageless colonial charm.” That vision was to mimic New England churches which served as inspirational centers of community life.
Scripture also tells of worship being community based: “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together . . . but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
In an interesting turnabout in 1958, Leland School used the church’s fellowship hall for its third grade due to overcrowding at the school. The church expanded that same year with a new east wing education unit consecrated on October 12. Sunday morning worship expanded into two services to satisfy demand.
In the ‘60s, an associated pastor was added, eventually becoming full time in 1964. In ’68, another education building expansion was consecrated. Community Methodist Church added “United” to its name after the 1968 merger between the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches.
Community United Methodist Church celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1985. Original members were honored and sat in the front pews at the September 23 worship service. The church had grown to over 1,000 members with 500 children enrolled in Sunday School.
2002 Building Expansion
The first large construction project in 33 years was finished in 2002. The completion of the $2 million expansion and renovation was dedicated on September 15 in a service to help honor our past and celebrate our future.
One of the distinguished attendees was Mr. Ralph Findley, an original member of the church and a major benefactor of the expansion. Mr. Findley was also a member of the 1949 site committee that decided the location of the church.
50th Anniversary of Consecration in 2005
Throughout 2005, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary of the church consecration, culminating with a special golden anniversary service and reception on October 16. It had been 50 years to the day since the original consecration, and some of the same elements were repeated in the commemorative service, such as bulletin quote, meditation, hymns, and call to worship. Historical photographs were hung in the library. The wall of pastors was displayed. The church itself was spruced up and chimes were replaced and working after many years of silence. To the delight of parishioners, Rev. Ron Retherford invited former pastors back to preach, including Revs. Gordon Sorensen, Billy Bross, Rebecca Aist McFee, Robert Harding, Jean Ehnert Nicholas, Marc Well Nagel and Thad Rutter. In fact, Rev. Sorensen’s sermon was entitled, “Come on in Folks – Out of the Rain” in reference to the church’s first pastor, Rev. Guy Nelson, who jokingly said those very words during the church’s rainy groundbreaking in 1954. “There we shall worship together in quiet devotion,” foretold a 1953 building brochure. That has certainly come to be and continues to be. Today, grandparents, who were young adults when they first joined the church, now worship side by side with their children and grandchildren.
Church Turned 60 in 2009
“Anniversaries are often times when we stop and reflect on what has happened in the past and there is some value in looking back at where we’ve been,” said Community United Methodist lead pastor John W. Wells. “But, if we get stuck in the past we will never embrace the opportunities that are all around us in the present, or begin to plan for the opportunities that are waiting for us in the future.
“We need to be constantly thinking about what we can do and become as followers of Jesus.” ~John W. Wells
“Sixty years seems like a long time when measured in human years, but the Christian faith has been moving forward through time for almost twenty centuries. Our ministry here at Community United Methodist Church is just in its infancy. We have been growing as disciples of Jesus and we will continue to grow as we reach out to new people and share with them the wonderful Good News of forgiveness and new life.
“Our challenge is to never get so comfortable with where we are that we forget about where and what we are called to be. There are new challenges ahead of us, new people to reach out to, and new opportunities to live out our faith in Jesus Christ. The story continues . . .”
Community United Methodist Church
Rev. Lincoln Hartford 1959-1964
Rev. Thad Rutter 1964-1969
Rev. Steve Foster 1969-1972
Rev. Norman Silvester 1973-1976
Rev. Melvin Vilhauer 1976-1978
Revs. Richard & Jill Edens 1978-1979
Rev. Francis Deaner 1979-1985
Rev. Michael White 1985-1986
Rev. Marc Well Nagel 1986-1989
Rev. Jean Gray-Ehnert 1989-1992
Rev. Robert L. Harding 1992-1997
Rev. Rebecca Aist McFee 1997-2002
Rev. Lynn Church 2002-2003
Rev. Steve Latham 2003-2004
Rev. Kyung-Sook “Sue” Lee 2005-2009
Rev. Janet Hartzell 2009-2013
Rev. Lizzie Weed 2013-2015
Community United Methodist Church
Rev. Guy Nelson 1949-1956
Rev. Marlin Smith 1956-1963
Rev. Dale Strong 1963-1968
Rev. L. Clarence Kelley 1968-1978
Rev. Gordon N.C. Sorensen 1978-1995
Rev. Billy Bross 1995-2002
Rev. Ron Retherford 2002-2010
Rev. John W. Wells 2010-present