Methodism in Pendleton traces its beginnings back to the work of John and Charles Wesley in England in 1784, when a church was formed where heart and mind went out to common people not only in England and America, but across the globe. Less than half a century later, a small group of settlers clustered around the falls of Fall creek felt the need for regular worship in a religious organization. In 1823, a group of ten charter members established the Pendleton Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
In those early years, members met in each other's cabins for prayer, Bible reading and personal testimony. Soon some wandering missionary circuit riders came to the growing area at infrequent intervals. By 1828, there was a Fall Creek Circuit, and from 1829 until the present, there has been a continuous line of pastors who have served this church.
One of the charter members was Thomas Pendleton who deeded trustees of the church Lot 32 on Water Street in Pendleton. A cabin made of round logs was built that year on that site. This building was the first church in Madison County and one of the first Methodist Episcopal churches in the state of Indiana.
During the 1830s, a Sunday School was formed, camp meetings were great events, and Methodist quarterly meetings lasted for two or three days. The tide of Methodism swept the frontier like a "praise fire". By 1839, the Pendleton Society had outgrown its log cabin; the cabin church was pulled down and a frame church measuring 40'x60' was erected on the same site at a cost of $1,800.00.
For the next 67 years, this building served the congregants as a place of worship, and also served the community as a center for all meetings of importance in the area, including meetings of the Grand Army of the Republic, temperance meetings, oratoricals, and commencement services.
In 1904-1905, the congregation became convinced that a new church building at a more centrally located site was needed. Property at the present site of the church, at the corner of West and State Streets was purchased at a cost of $1,200.00. The new red brick Gothic style building was dedicated on January 7, 1906. The building complete cost $15,800.00, and by the evening of Dedication Day, the building was paid for and an extra $1,125.00 was in the coffers!
An increase in membership following World War II caused the church to purchase property east of the building for use as a parish house, later torn down to make way for a new educational wing in 1963. This unit included eleven classrooms and a chapel. Late in 1966, at a congregational meeting, it was decided to proceed with building a new sanctuary. The last service in the old church was held in February, 1967, and one year later, on February 25, 1968, the first service was held in our present building. With indebtedness for land, a 1957 parsonage, and the educational unit already liquidated, the challenge was to raise $257,000.00 for the new sanctuary and service wing, with the new facility connected to the educational wing.
Much needed additional parking was made possible by the purchase of the lot east of the church. A children's playground and graveled parking occupy area on another lot just south of the alley behind the church. Our forth parsonage in 178 years was purchased in 1999 and the debt was recently retired.
Most recently we completed the remodeling of our fellowship hall including: new carpet, new tables and chairs and air conditioning. The kitchen has been equipped with new institutional refrigeration and freezer units through a memorial gift.
We have not mentioned all the efforts at remodeling and redecoration in our various facilities, nor have we chronicled various programs of the church such as the United Methodist Women (an outgrowth of earlier Ladies' Aid and W.S.C.S. groups), or of our youth groups, Bible study classes, renewed emphasis on missions beginning in the 1980s, our Friendly Flock Preschool, Vacation Bible Schools, etc. We have not attempted to figure the souls saved, the hearts comforted, the families strengthened because of the presence of United Methodism in Pendleton, Indiana.
To quote from a prayer written by one of our members as we celebrated our 150th Anniversary:
"Help us to keep our vision clear to see the needs around us, so Thy Kingdom will grow and thrive in our church, the community, and the world. Humbly and gladly we place our hands in Thine. Lead us!"
(edited from the "175th Anniversary History" compiled by Nancy Wynant)