Nameoki United Methodist Church History – 1950-2014
Early in the year of 1948 Dr. H. G. Hurley, District Superintendent of the East St. Louis District, saw the need for a new Methodist Church in the Nameoki Area of Granite City. Dr. Hurley introduced this idea to the Rev. E. M. Dycus of the Niedringhaus Methodist Church and to a number of the members of this congregation. A meeting was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Kirchner, Sr. to consider this plan. There were twenty-five people present at this meeting.
Maryland Real Estate Company had a plot of ground available at Pontoon Road and Primrose Avenue that they were willing to sell for the sum of $2,700. The group decided to undertake the task of raising the money to buy this property for a new church building.
Another meeting was held and a report was made that most of the money had either been donated or pledged. At this meeting the idea of starting a Sunday School and organizing the church was considered.
On October 24, 1949, the temporary trustees were given the authority to buy the land. A charter membership period was planned to start on November 18, 1949, and continue through February, 1950. By the end of this period, there was a total of 108 charter members.
The Odd Fellows Lodge Hall on Nameoki Road was made available for Sunday School. The first Sunday School meeting took place on November 20, 1949, with Ralph Bailey as Sunday School Superintendent. Eighty people were in attendance. In addition to the Sunday School, Friday evening worship services were led by Rev. Dycus.
Charter Membership night was held on February 17, 1950, at the Nameoki City Hall building. One hundred and eight members were received into the new church; seventy transferring from the Niedringhaus congregation. The official board was organized and “Nameoki Methodist” was chosen as the name for this new congregation.
The Women’s Society of Christian Service was organized on March 23, 1950.
The first One Hundred-Week Building Fund Crusade was started in May of 1950. With the encouraging progress being made to this point, efforts were then made to arrange for a pastor for the church. Unable to provide for a full-time pastor, an arrangement was made to share a pastor with the Venice Methodist Church.
Rev. Stephen Phillips, who was just finishing his seminary studies, was appointed to the Venice-Nameoki Charge. Rev. Frank Wilson, a retired pastor, filled the pulpits of the two churches until Rev. Phillips graduated from Seminary. On August 27, 1950, Rev. Phillips assumed his duties as pastor.
During this period of time, the members of the church carried out numerous fund-raising projects to raise money for the building fund. One of the key projects was an extended series of snack suppers. These were first held in the Odd Fellows Hall. But they expanded to the point that more room was needed. Arrangements were made to use the cafeteria of the Nameoki Grade School. In addition to these suppers, there were ice-cream socials, rummage sales, etc.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the Educational Building was held on October 18, 1950. This structure would serve as the place of worship until a new sanctuary could be built. On December 23, 1951, a formal opening service was held. Rev. Phillips pastored the Venice-Nameoki Charge until 1952.
The Rev. Billy Hahs and his wife Elouise were appointed to succeed Rev. Phillips. When they arrived here they had one son, Billy. A second son, Jame, was born during their pastorate here. On the first night when Rev. Hahs and his family arrived at the parsonage in Venice they found the house locked. For some reason they were net yet expected, so no one was there to receive them, and they did net yet have a key to the house. They went in through the coal chute. They had to sleep on the floor since their furniture had not yet arrived.
When Rev. Hahs came, the Nameoki and Venice Churches were still together as one charge. At the Annual Conference of June, 1953, the two churches became independent. Rev. Hahs was re-appointed to the Nameoki Church. At this time the church rented a parsonage at 2202 Woodlawn. In 1955, the first parsonage was purchased at 2031 Amos Avenue. The Hahs family was the first family to occupy the parsonage. Rev. Hahs served this church until 1956.
In 1956 Rev. LeRoy Pittman, his wife, Vera, and their two sons, Stephen and Michael, succeeded Rev. Hahs. During the next three years, the debt on the Educational Building was paid off and the dedication service was held on April 26, 1959. After this building had been dedicated, a building committee was appointed to start the planning process for a sanctuary. During the six years of Rev. Pittman’s ministry, the church grew steadily and progressed in its development.
In 1962 Rev. Frank Pierce, his wife, Irene, daughter, Patricia, and son, Howard, were appointed to the Nameoki Church. The building committee for the new sanctuary was still hard at work.
On October 3, 1963, the ground-breaking ceremony was held to mark the beginning of construction. The M. H. Wolfe Company was engaged to build the sanctuary. It was decided to have them handle all the major work, rather than the members work, as they had done on the Educational Building.
On Sunday October 11, 1964, a formal opening service for the new sanctuary was held. There was an open house from 2:00-5:00 p.m. with the youth serving as guides.
The church, at this point, entered a period of heavy financial struggle due to the comparatively small size of the congregation in proportion to the $243,000 cost of the new sanctuary. With the leadership of Rev. Pierce, the congregation worked on numerous projects to raise funds. One of the most notable of these projects was the making and selling of apple butter. The Fidelity Sunday School class was the leader of this project with many other people from the church taking part. It required lots of hands. The kettles were made ready and the fire started before daybreak. This project was carried out at the farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Canham.
On December 10, 1967, the organ, piano, and new hymnals were presented to the church in a dedication service conducted by Rev. Pierce. This was one of the last services presided over by Rev. Pierce, since in this same month of December, he was appointed to another charge.
Rev. William Fester was the next pastor appointed to Nameoki. He arrived with his wife, Mary Jane, and sons, Doug and Brad . In February of 1973, they welcomed baby Michelle into their home.
In 1971 Jim Rhea answered the call to the ministry.
With Rev. Fester’s leadership and the dedicated efforts of the members, the financial situation was much improved and other programs could be initiated. The first big undertaking was the finishing of the basement, hanging the acoustical ceiling, installing fluorescent lighting and folding partitions. The HOPE Fund was established to assist people in emergency situations, in June of 1973 a youth pastor, Jeff Jahn, was hired. At this time he answered the call into the ministry.
Also, in 1973, Edward Weston answered the call into the ministry.
In December of that year the first live nativity service was presented along with the first midnight Christmas Eve service.
In August of 1974, a new parsonage was purchased at 2431 Waterman Ave. The new parsonage provided more room and convenience. The original parsonage at 2031 Amos Avenue was sold and the proceeds applied to the purchase of the new one.
From the fall of 1974 to the spring of 1975, a new program was started called “Family Night”. This program proved to be successful beyond expectations. When planned it was hoped that an average attendance each Wednesday night would reach 50-75. However, the average attendance was 135 with a high of 180 present. A meal was served followed by a wide range of interest groups with everything from cake decorating to upholstering to small engine repairs and ham radio operating. There were also classes for children.
On June 24 and 25, 1975, a 25th Anniversary Celebration for the Church was held. There was a church-wide potluck dinner on the 24th, and on the 25th former pastors Rev. Billy Hahs preached at the morning service and Rev. Frank Pierce preached at the evening service.
In 1975 the church began the practice of supporting a missionary by paying a share of support for Rick Newberry who was serving at Red Bird Mission in Kentucky.
During the year of 1976 many improvements were made to the church building. A new stove was purchased for the kitchen and a chair lift was installed in the Fellowship Hall. A new ceiling and lights were installed in the hallway. The first Sweetheart Banquet was held with couples joining together for dinner at a restaurant followed by entertainment and a time of fellowship.
June 13, 1977 was Rev. Fester’s last Sunday at Nameoki. On June 19 Rev. Max Martin with his wife Jean arrived as the new pastor.
We celebrated the first “Hanging of the Greens” in December when members gathered to decorate the church for Advent and Christmas.
In 1978 David Luckert and Bruce Baumberger both answered the call to the ministry.
During the next two years several new programs were begun. Wednesday night Lenten suppers with services to follow were started. Our first Lay Witness Mission was held with Christians from various states coming to witness to their faith in Christ. This program was very well received with members hosting the visitors in their homes. We began sponsoring Dale and Alice Walker as missionaries to Indonesia. The kitchen in the Fellowship Hall was completely renovated. At the end of the year 1979 there were 563 members of the church.
In February of 1980 Rev. and Mrs. Max Martin were appointed to another church and Rev. Eugene Seaman and his wife Eunice were appointed to Nameoki.
Christy Luckert was hired as a summer youth director.
The Fidelity Sunday School classroom was completely renovated. A new freezer was purchased for the kitchen in the Fellowship Hall. The eternal flame lamp in the sanctuary was installed and dedicated.
In November Ken and Cathy Perkins were hired as youth directors.
In 1981 Family Night was started up again after a few years hiatus. A Lenten devotional booklet written by members was printed. A van was purchased for the church. Doug Matthews was hired as youth director and evangelism worker. David Long was recommended as candidate to the ministry. The garage was built to house the van.
The following year a van ministry was started to pick up members who were unable to drive to church on Sunday morning. Family night was continued with an eight-week program. The average attendance at family night was 104-110. The adult bell choir was begun.
Sunday evening Round Robin Lenten services were started among the United Methodist Churches of Granite City and Madison. Beth Nicol was hired as organist and choir accompanist. Two services were held on Sunday mornings during the summer months. The Loyalty Sunday School class adopted the Mt. Tabor building at Little Grassy Camp for repairing, cleaning and fixing-up as a class project.
In June of 1983 a new pastor was assigned to Nameoki. We welcomed the Rev. Jerry Reed , wife JoElla, and children, Kenyon and Kristie. We said good-bye to Rev. Seaman and Eunice.
Donna Lane was hired as church secretary. The First Plum Pudding dinner was held. This was a Christmas dinner for adults, with one couple acting as hosts for their table and inviting other couples to sit at their table. The lovely candle-light dinner was followed with entertainment.
The year 1985 brought some exciting events. A revival was held with Jim Sloan and Roger Russell as leaders. A concert by the Concert Chorale of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville was presented. Our first copy machine was purchased.
Nameoki Church joined with the other United Methodist Churches in Granite City and Madison to form the Tri-City Mission Council. One of the first acts of the Mission Council was to provide the funding for the opening of Phoenix Crisis Center a home for victims of domestic violence.
During the next year a parking lot auction was held to raise funds. This was a lot of fun and enjoyed by all those taking part. Carol Poole was hired as the new church secretary.
Many outreach programs in the community were undertaken. Our church adopted Niedringhaus and Prather Schools to support with clothing and funds for shoes and school supplies. The first Granite City Crop Walk was held under the direction of Gene Ozbun. A revival was held which was led by four young men – Bruce Baumberger, David Luckert, Roger Russell, and Edward Weston, who had gone into the ministry from our church.
An extensive renovation was undertaken in 1988. The youth room was completely renovated with the one large room being divided into two smaller rooms with double doors connecting the rooms. The ceiling was lowered and drop lights were installed. Ceiling fans were installed in the sanctuary, the entire chancel area was redesigned, and new carpeting was installed in the sanctuary. Draperies were installed in the Fellowship Hall.
In early 1988, a Spouse Support Group was organized by Ruth Seymour and Kathleen Murphy. That group is still active. Kathleen is the spiritual leader and Millie Clements organizes and plans various trips and outings. A few women from other churches have joined the group also.
Gloria Kagy was hired as the church secretary. Craig and Lisa Guilliams were hired as Youth Directors.
In 1989 we hosted a District Evangelism Rally with our Bishop Woodie White presiding. New United Methodist Hymnals were purchased and dedicated. A wonderful church-wide parking lot party was held with tables set up on the lawn. Those attending enjoyed home-made ice cream and a strolling barber-shop quartet.
In the following years several new programs were started. A program called “First Sunday-Food Sunday” was started to bring canned and packaged foods on the first Sunday of each month for local food pantries.
The Nurture Committee initiated a program to send “Care” packages to college students. A children and youth bell choir was started. Through our Mission Council we were assigned the Niedringhaus and Wilson Schools to help with clothing and supplies. Our youth director, Craig Guilliams left to go into another field of ministry. Our church secretary, Gloria Kagy resigned and was replaced by Marsha Bushue. Just a few months later Marsha resigned and Carol Poole was rehired. Dorothy Luckert was elected to serve as a lay delegate to General Conference to be held in St. Louis.
In October of 1991 Rev. Reed was assigned to another church end Rev. Jame Hahs was appointed to Nameoki. We were thrilled to have Pastor Jame as our new pastor, since he had been born while his father served as our pastor.
In June of 1992, Pastor Jame married Donna Decker. The parsonage family now consisted of five children: Nathan, Seth, Joe, Jonathan, and Sarah.
During the next few months, many work trips were undertaken by members of the church. Eight adults and three youth went to Beattyville, Kentucky, where they participated in helping to build a church building. A check for $1,700 from our congregation was given to the Red Bird Missionary Conference during this work trip. Jack Luckert and Don Dillard traveled to Florida to help rebuild homes damaged by hurricanes.
A Mission Statement was adopted by our congregation to provide a focus and direction for our church:
“We are all children of God.
We belong to God’s family.
We care and support each other.
We reach out to embrace others.”
A logo designed by Lynn McClain was adopted. The logo was outstretched hands holding a cross.
In 1993 Rev. Ray Porter led a Key Event. There were four sessions, with each one focusing on a special day in the church calendar: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. The Bread of Life program was started. This was a program to take a loaf of bread to each new visitor, following their first visit to our church. This has been very well received by our visitors. Another wok trip was held at Crank’s Creek, Kentucky, where a new church building was being erected.
During the course of the year Pontoon Road was undergoing widening and construction. This created quite a problem getting into and out of our parking lots and also with our landscaping. However once it was done it was quite an improvement.
In 1994 Monday night worship service was started to accommodate those who were unable to attend church on Sunday.
Fourteen members of Nameoki Church assisted “Habitat for Humanity” with the building of eight new homes in E. St. Louis.
Larry Davis and Mark Johnson were dedicated as Lay Speakers. Phillip and Diana Wingeier-Rayo who were serving in Cuba as missionaries, were chosen to be supported by our church.
In 1996 a Men’s Softball team was organized to play in a church league. A Junior Church service was started during the 10:45 service. Our church took part in the community-wide bi-centennial celebration with Pastor Jame preaching and several of our members singing in the choir.
Several important changes occurred in the organization of the church. D. B. Cummings was hired as Youth Director. The Administrative-Board and the Council of Ministries were replaced by one Church Council. The Southern Illinois and Central Illinois Conferences merged into one conference — The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.
In 1997, Beth Nicol resigned as church organist and Mike Rogier was hired. Rev. Hahs began holding healing services with an emphasis on specific illnesses three times a year.
In 1998 a revival sponsored by our Cluster Group was held out-doors on the lawn at the Good Shepherd Church. The services were led by Rev. Sylvester Weatherall and a choir from Washington Park Grace United Methodist Church.
A beautiful life-size nativity set, designed and built by Pete Berta, was given to the church in a dedication service.
A Rainbows group was begun. This is a program to provide support for those who have suffered some kind of loss in their life. Also, some will be trained as facilitators to carry on the program in the future. Good Samaritan House, a shelter for homeless women and their children, opened. Several of our members have volunteered to staff this facility in the evenings.
In the fall of the year our congregation was quite involved with the Billy Graham Crusade held in St. Louis. Busloads of people from our church went each evening as well as attending events for the children and youth.
Janet McCarty, a teacher in the Philippines, was selected as our missionary to support.
Following Rev Dr Jame Hahs’s appointment to Alton Main Street UMC in 2002, Rev Dr Kent Lolling was appointed as the new pastor. Kent only served in this position for 4 years before he was called upon to take an appointment as the Director of Connectional Ministries for the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference in Springfield, serving first under Bishop Sharon Brown Christoffer, then Bishop’s Palmer and Keaton.
Rev. Tim Pate and his family moved into the parsonage in 2006 and together with his wife Becky led the church during a long period of stability and growth. The church was completely refurbished during Rev Tim’s appointment. A new conference room was created, the educational wing and offices were renovated, new carpet was installed in the sanctuary, an elevator was installed, a new driveway was built in the front of the church, the pews were recovered and the stained glass was re-set. Becky ably led the bell choirs at the church, and was active in dressing the communion table and hosting many special events at Nameoki UMC.
In 2012, a new sign was purchased for the front of the church. It’s modern and eye catching font along with the cross and flame signaled made the Nameoki UMC sanctuary even more distinctive in the community than before.
Also in 2012, Rev. Roger Russell was appointed by Bishop Palmer to serve the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference as a District Superintendent. He served the Cache River District located in the southern tip of Illinois and the Mississippi River District before his retirement in 2019.
In April 2014 Rev. Delbert Groves and his wife Sandy were appointed the United Methodist missionaries in Zambia, Africa.
In June of 2014, Rev. Tim Pate was reappointed to serve the Alton Main Street UMC – replacing Rev. Dr. Jame Hahs who had been there since his transfer from Nameoki 12 years prior. In his place, Rev Mike Rayson was reappointed from Bethalto United Methodist Church. He and his family immigrated from Australia in 2005 where he served in the Uniting Church of Australia.
In October 2014, the distinctive arch shaped Nameoki UMC sanctuary celebrated its 50th year. At a special service on October 12th, Rev. Bruce Baumberger – who answered the call to ministry from Nameoki – was invited to be the guest preacher. Bruce is currently serving as the Chaplain to Alton Memorial Hospital, and is the chairperson of the District Board of Ordained Ministry for the Mississippi River District.
In March 2019, Mike Rayson resigned from Nameoki to begin a new church. In July 2019, we received our first female pastor, Rev. Susan Harrison, who relocated to the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference from the North Carolina Annual Conference. We are excited to begin a new season of ministry and look forward to all God is doing at Nameoki United Methodist Church.