Cargill United Methodist Church has had a long history in Janesville. The origin of the church was in 1837 when an itinerant Methodist minister held the first service under a large oak tree at the corner of Main & Milwaukee. From 1837 to 1844 Methodist Missionaries served as Circuit Riders and continued to hold services in and around Janesville. In 1844 Reverend Lyman Catlin was appointed as the first resident pastor.
The Methodist congregation, known as “First Methodist Episcopal Church” grew rapidly and built their first church building on McKinley Street. In 1853 construction of another building began at the corner of Jackson & McKinley.
In 1867 a second congregation was formed and named “The Court Street Methodist Episcopal Church.” The church building was constructed on the northwest corner of South Main and Court Streets. In 1904 the two Methodist congregations merged and became known as “The Central Methodist Episcopal Church.” A new building was erected at the corner of Franklin and Court Streets. In recognition of a large gift toward this project by William W. Cargill in memory of his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. W.D. Cargill, the church’s name was changed to “The Cargill Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church.”
In 1939 the Methodist Protestant Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church united under the name The Methodist Church, so we became Cargill Methodist Church.
By 1950, the congregation had a membership of almost 2,000, and it became increasingly evident that they had outgrown their current facilities. In 1954 planning and fundraising began for the purpose of remodeling the building, but there were soon doubts about making the facility adequate for future needs. Eventually, the congregation voted to recommend construction of a new building.
In 1957 a new 9 acre site was purchased at 2000 Wesley Avenue, the current location of the church, and construction of a new church was completed within a few years. The Cargill Foundation was again involved in funding for this project, first with a loan and then with loan forgiveness. The first service held in the present sanctuary was a midnight Christmas Eve Holy Communion service in 1960.
In 1968 the global merger of the Methodist Church and United Brethren Church formed the United Methodist Church; this church congregation became known as Cargill United Methodist Church.
The current building has served the Cargill United Methodist Church congregation well. In addition to weekend church services, Sunday School, mid-week night programming, and meetings space for several organizations, the building also houses Cargill Christian Learning Center each week day.
As the 50th Anniversary of the building of the facility approached, the congregation determined that several capital projects should be completed to update the property. Through the generous contributions of members, a complete renovation of the commercial kitchen and fellowship hall, new lighting, major roofing and updated bathroom facility projects have been completed. Also a sanctuary refurbishing project was completed
For over 175 years, this church family has been alive and well in Janesville, touching the lives of countless families and individuals and connecting people to God, one another and the world.
The Methodist branch of Protestant religion traces back to England in the 1730s as a result of the teachings of John Wesley. While John and his brother were studying at Oxford, they helped to form a group devoted to religious study, prayer and helping the underprivileged. Fellow students labeled the group as “Methodist” because of the way they used “rule” and “method” to go about their religious affairs.
Wesley did not necessarily plan to create a new church, but rather began several faith-based groups within the Anglican church. In 1744 the first conference was held and Methodism became its own religion.
In 1785 The Methodist Episcopal Church (preceded The United Methodist Church) was formed near Baltimore. This was the first organized Protestant church in the land of what was to become the United States of America.
Read a complete history of The United Methodist Church.