In the 1760s, the Methodist movement came to America and began to benefit from and become a critical part of the “Great Awakening.”
In 1784, the Methodist Episcopal Church was started as a denomination in the United States of America. The church soon benefited from the Second Great Awakening and experienced exponential growth into the mid-to-late 19th century.
In the 1880s, small groups of Christians began to gather in homes in Leonia to keep up with one another, care for one another, share a meal, pray, sing, study the Bible, and learn about following Jesus. This local small group movement was started and initially guided by Methodists from nearby Englewood who were moved by the Third Great Awakening – or Social Gospel Movement.
In 1890, these Christians came together to worship in Leonia’s Lyceum. The Leonia Methodist Episcopal Church was formally incorporated that very year and our first pastor was appointed to serve the brand new church.
In 1894, the church was strong enough to build its first building on the corner of Broad Avenue and Harrison Street. The property and building were sold to St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church and Leonia UMC thereby played a small role in getting another church started in the community.
In 1915, the people of Leonia United Methodist Church pooled their resources and moved to our current site on the corner of Woodridge Place and Broad Avenue.
In the late 1950s, the “new church building” was packed to capacity with over 250 attending the worship service and the Sunday school hour each week. The building was expanded so that the sanctuary can now seat over 300.
By 2011, Leonia United Methodist Church had declined to just about 30 people attending worship. In July, our current pastor, David Wehrle, was appointed and the church began to explore its purpose and pray for its future ministry.
By 2013, Leonia United Methodist Church had grown again to over 50 in attendance on Sunday morning. A small group program was started in 2012 and a youth group program in 2013. This era of Postmodernism is marked by a culture of spiritual exploration, a desire for new authenticity that rejects rigid forms and hierarchies, a desire for community, and a sense of responsibility for our world and one another. In this context, Leonia United Methodist Church is embarking on new adventures of faith, hope and love.
By 2015, Leonia United Methodist Church continues to grow in depth and number. In 2015, the church celebrates 125 years and the centennial of the current building. A student center for middle schoolers called “THIRD Place” was started in 2014 and regularly welcomes 50 – 90 students after school on Fridays.