Four score years ago, a small group of determined Christians “Caught the Spirit” and began meeting on Sundays in the home of Mrs. R. J. Walker. The group was composed of the members of the Walker Family, The Gibson Family, a lady known as Mrs. Wilson and her daughter. Their leader was a lay preacher, Mr. E. R. Lewis. These people proved that ”where two or three are gathered” in His name, good things happen.
In 1915, this group became a part of the Lexington Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The name was St. Matthew Methodist Episcopal Church. The church moved into a storefront building at 327 W. Oak Street. Here it remained under the leadership of Rev. I. C. Smith and Rev. J. M. Hayden, until Rev. Hayden led the members in the purchase of their first church building in the 1400 block of North Clybourn.
In 1917, Rev. J. M. Franklin became the pastor. With a growing congregation and a vision for the future, he convinced the members that a larger building was needed. This “larger building” (vacated earlier by the Italian Mission and once the Swedish Methodist Church) was located at 1000 North Orleans.
In 1938, Rev. Henry M. Marbly was appointed as pastor. He was a champion in the earliest days of the Civil rights movement. He encouraged active participationin the NAACP, organized boycotts of a white owned store that would not hire Black people and successfully ended their discriminatory practices. He organized a Social Service Ministry within the congregation that served the Near North neighborhood and beyond by developing relationships with Youth Homes in Geneva and St. Charles, Illinois.
In 1940, the Uniting Conference brought together the three Methodist denominations, Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South, and Methodist Prostestant Church, into the Methodist Church. St. Matthew Episcopal Church,under the leadership of H. M. Marbly was now St. Matthew Methodist Church of the Lexington Conference in the Central Jurisdiction.
In 1951, tragedy struck when a fire caused by the collision of a delivery truck and an oil truck nearly destroyed the building. Yet another tragedy was discovered when it was determined that the insurance was less than the mortgage. But through it all, the building was repaired, and the mortgage was repaid.
In 1958, under Rev. T. J. Griffin, St. Matthew was the first of fifteen Lexington Conference Churches to become a part of the Rock River Conference.
In 1968, The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to become the United Methodist Church. St. Matthew became St. Matthew United Methodist Church of the Northern Illinois Conference inthe North Central Jurisdiction.
In 1969, the old building was demolished tomake way for a new edifice. During this time, the congregation met in the gymnasium of our neighbor, St. Joseph Catholic Church.
In 1971, our current building, designed by architect, Walter Netsch, with The Cross, by Sculptor Richard Hunt, under the leadership of the Reverend John C. Jackson was dedicated to the service of God.
The faith community has operated several ministries over the years, such as Operation Hope, a Head Start Day Care Center, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as many outreach programs. The congregation has hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Mayor Harold Washington and played a primary role in the development of Atrium Village, an affordable housing development in the community.
St. Matthew has a long history of sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through outreach ministries.
Today, the congregation shares the Good News through outreach ministries, such as the FoodPanty, co-hosting of the annual Community Thanksgiving Fellowship Meal, The Women’s Ministry Homeless Outreach program, and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Near North Tutoring Program. In addition, Rachel McEwing, Minister of Music and Rev. Dr. Rodney C. Walker, Pastor have a weekly broadcast show on Rejoice Radio WYCA 102.3 FM,which allows them to expand the Good News of the Gospel regionally.
As we celebrate 105 years of ministry, we look forward to the next chapter in our story. The faith community is in the midst of a redevelopment process that would create an eighteen- story mixed-use building on its current property that would include a sanctuary, gym/ fellowship hall, Gospel Café, off- street parking and mixed income apartment units.Today, we thank God for history, we praise God for what only God can do for us, and we are trusting God for a future full of abundant life built on Christ the solid rock.