Church History

The society known as the Methodist Episcopal church of Downs was organized in the “Spring” school house in 1833 as a result of special religious services being held in the homes of Tommy Hendrix and John Price.

Worship was held in this place until 1841, when the old Union church was erected east of the present site of the Village of Downs. In 1867, the union was dissolved, and a Methodist church was built east of Hopewell Cemetery and was known as Hopewell Methodist Church. In 1876, under the direction of the pastor, Job Ingram, the church was removed from its original location to a lot, donated by the pastor, near the central part of the village.

The church bought the present parsonage in 1900 at a cost of $2,000.

In the month of April, 1909, the trustees sold the old church to Frank Marcellus, who removed the building, using the lumber to erect a dwelling in the southeast part of the village. The bell from the old church was installed in the Downs schoolhouse. During the same month, the building committee was appointed by the quarterly conference, and the contract for a new brick church was let to Weaver and Davis of Downs, to cost when completed $10,000.

The corner stone of the church was laid on Sunday afternoon, May 23, 1909, by Rev. J. W. Somerville, assisted by the pastor, in the presence of 600 people. From that time, the enterprise was pushed steadily forward.

The church was built of brick with slate roof and trimmed in Bedford limestone. Besides the auditorium, it contained three Sunday school rooms on the upper floor and four large rooms in the basement (reception room, kitchen and serving pantry, dining room, and furnace and fuel room).

The building contains $800 worth (1909 prices) of opalescent glass in which appears life-sized reproductions of the Savior, copied from great artists, and many other appropriate emblems in beautiful colors. The building was dedicated on Sunday, September 12, 1909.

At the council of Churches held in 1939, the Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Protestant Churches were merged. In the late 1960’s, the Methodist church once again merged with another church, and became the United Methodist Church, after joining with the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

In 1949, an electric organ was purchased to replace the reed organ. Mrs. E. C. Williams was the organist, and Fred Drakes was the pastor.

In 1963, Rev. Fred Belcher came to the charge, and the sanctuary was repainted, new light fixtures put up, and new carpet installed. As the community continued to grow, so had the Church and the Sunday school. In 1973, a Sunday School classroom addition for $25,000 was built. In 1989, the opportunity arose to purchase the adjacent parking lot, garage, and house, which was utilized as rental property. In 1991, Rev. Fred Belcher retired and Rev. Lawrence “Skip” Conrad came to the charge.

Due to expanding Sunday school attendance, in July 1993, it was decided the house could be used as additional Sunday school classrooms. A building fund drive was established in hopes that by 1994, $35,000 could be raised to make necessary improvements on the interior and exterior of the house. Also in 1993, by using Memorial fund money, a ramp was built to provide handicapped access on the South side of the church. In the summer of 1993, a pitched roof was constructed over the Sunday school addition to alleviate the leaking problem with the flat roof, at a cost of $7,000. In the summer of 1996, Rev. Lawrence “Skip” Conrad retired, and Pastor Curtis Rush came to the charge.

In the summer of 1997, a new pastor’s office and extra storage space was built in the area over the Sunday school rooms, the current pastor’s office became the new secretary’s office. A new sound system and air conditioning were installed, tuckpointing was done, and the bell tower was repaired and painted.

In the summer of 1998, the entire church sanctuary was remodeled, the floor was leveled, and the current secretary’s office was torn down. A new secretary’s office was built using part of the storage area over the Sunday School rooms. The pews were recovered, new carpet was laid, the entire sanctuary repainted, and new wiring and lights were put up. The swinging door and stairs between the sanctuary and the basement were torn out. A wider stairwell was built, and the direction changed from north then south to north then west. The choir loft was rebuilt with a new banister, the banister around the altar area was replaced by steps, and a new organ was purchased. On Sunday, August 15, 1998, a potluck and church dedication was held after the regular church service, and a concert was given on the new organ.

On July 1, 2006, Pastor Curtis L. Rush and his wife, Pam, were appointed to the Evangelical Methodist Church in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, and the Reverend Ronald C. George was appointed to our church, along with his wife, the Reverend Kathy D. George.

On July 1, 2012, Reverend Ken Burgard was appointed to our church, and is currently serving as the pastor at Downs UMC.

In October 2021 the church dedicated its new building at 205 S Highway Avenue, and all programming was moved to the new facility with a grand opening scheduled for December 2021.

The mission of Downs United Methodist Church is to support Christ’s “great commission” by providing spiritual guidance, Christian education for all ages, Christian-oriented youth programs, community service, and outreach to our parish and the community.