Brief History of Wesley United Methodist Church of Fresno

A core group of eleven adults, seven youth and three children interested in establishing a Methodist Church in northeast Fresno gathered at the home of Paul and Viola Davis on June 28, 1965 with pastor Don Jordan. They scheduled their first worship for Sunday, September 26. District Superintendent Harry Shaner would participate. They had opened a bank account in Fig Garden at Bank of America. Reverend Jordan published the first newsletter on July 9.

By the September 13 newsletter they had decided to name this new church on Barstow Avenue, Wesley Methodist Church. “This is a name in great tradition and holds for each of us a rich heritage. It is especially significant for our area where we are attempting to serve the total community – college, apartment, and single residence. The Wesley name signifies discipline, competent administration, concern for the entire family of man, great singing and stirring preaching. It will require the best talent in each of us to measure up to our name and tradition”.

The church would temporarily meet at the College of Religious Center on East Shaw Avenue. Junior High and Senior High Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) began meeting in September at the personage. Five youth showed up for the first meeting and fourteen youth came the next Sunday.

The first choir began rehearsals on September 15. Fellowship hour, nursery care and a Finance Advisory Committee were also organized.

Reverend Jordan wrote in The Methodist Messenger  that “the warm afterglow remains following our first worship on September 26 service in the College Religious Center. Our attendance numbered 142, not counting nursery and toddler children.” It was a memorable event for this fledgling congregation.

Church classes for children and youth began on October 10. The classes were held at the homes of members from 9 to 10 am; then the children were brought to church. After three weeks, the classes for children were moved to the Annex of the Religious Center.

Charter members of Wesley Methodist Church were received beginning October 10, 1965 through April 3, 1966. Thirty-eight charter members, representing twelve families were received on October 10, 1965. Charter members who are still active at Wesley include Ron Evans, Ted and Marilyn Oliver and Donna Weppler who joined on October 10; Marilyn Couvillion who joined October 24, and Shirley Boatman who joined on January 30, 1966. Ron Evans was elected the Chair of the Wesley Advisory Board and Donna Weppler as the secretary. Other committees were forming and meeting to support the new church, including Committee on Membership and Evangelism and Church School Teachers. A Wesley Fellowship for college students began November 14.

Palm Sunday, April 3, 1966 was Charter Sunday. Bishop Harvey Tippet and three District Superintendents attended. One hundred twenty-five people had joined between October 10 and April 3. Attendance on April 3 was 182. An organizational meeting and quarterly conference were held that same afternoon and leaders were officially elected.

A building committee was established in April, 1966 to guide and implement the future building program for Wesley. A sign was placed on the empty lot at Fourth and Barstow announcing the Future Site of Wesley Methodist Church. Wesley was well on its way!