CELEBRATING GOD'S LOVE FOR ALL PEOPLE
BROADWAY'S HISTORY 1891-1995
Broadway United Methodist Church, now located at 3338 North Broadway Street, Chicago, Illinois 60657, began its life of service on Sunday, July 12, 1891, and was known as Christ's Chapel. It was located in a vacant store at 1673 North Halsted Street. Reverend R.H. Dolliver was Pastor in Charge under the direction of the Chicago Home Missionary and Church Extension Society. As a result of personal visits by the pastor and handbills scattered in the neighborhood, 35 persons gathered for the morning service and 39 for the evening service. The collection for the day was $9.72. After the morning service, the Sabbath School was organized and grew.
On Monday, July 27, 1891, a committee made up of Charles Busby, Charles Lasher, Reverend Dolliver and A.D. Traveller, selected the church site on the corner of Evanston Avenue (now Broadway Street) and Buckingham Place. This site was purchased and the church building was started.
On August 2, 1891, 15 persons were received into the society by letter and on probation. By 1901, the membership was up to 175 persons.
Worship services were held in the basement until 1901 when the congregation decided to complete the building. It was dedicated in June of 1902 with Reverend R.E. Saunders as Pastor in Charge.
The Evanston Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church was designed by architect E. Hill Turnock. He also designed the Brewster Apartments at the corner of Diversey and Pine Grove Avenue, which is only a few blocks from the church. The Brewster is an official Chicago Landmark building. Turnock was also associated with Frank Lloyd Wright.
The church was built of blue Bedford stone with a red tile roof. The interior was finished in oak with a large truss ceiling. The sanctuary seated 450 persons. When the doors were opened in the new Sunday School room on the first floor, there would be accommodations for 800 people. The second story over the Sunday School room consisted of pastor's study, ladies parlor, dining room, kitchen and pantry, in addition to a primary classroom and lavatory. By completion of the church building in 1902, membership had grown to 275 with other community residents worshipping regularly also.
This church church ministered to this Northside community under the name "Evanston Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church" until 1914 when the name was changed to "Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church" in conjunction with the re-naming of the street. This name remained until 1963 when the change was made to "Broadway Methodist Church." In 1969 the denominations of Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren merged. The church was then called "Broadway United Methodist Church" and remains so today.
A senior citizens' group and day care for school-aged children was provided through the Broadway's Children Center for more than 15 years during the 60's and 70's. For several years the church provided space for a Christmas Day community dinner and served as a polling place for two precincts.
In the 1950's Broadway received some memorial money which was invested through the Board of Missions to purchase land for the St. Matthews Church building on Orleans Street in Chicago. The congregation matched the memorial money as they remodeled the fifty-year-old sanctuary altar area focused on the wooden cross which you now see in Friendship Hall as you enter the church.
In the 1960's the 618 building and property at 634 Buckingham were purchased. Money from our investments proved to be a real blessing in our future. What was 618 is now our parking lot.
From the early 1970's until 1984, membership declined, but the spirit of the existing congregation was high and positive. Inspired by the Revered Martin Cox and many members, money was pledged to replace the old electric organ with a pipe organ.
In February 1983, fire gutted the church and most of the beautiful stained-glass windows were lost. It was a heart-rending decision for a congregation of 45 dedicated members to undertake rebuilding. They concluded that this church had a mission on this corner, and "Lord willing," it could be done.
Revered Louise Mahan became our first female pastor in 1983, and we learned "the church is not a building; it is not a steeple; the church is people." For six years during construction, the people of Broadway Church worshiped at Christ Congregational Church, one half block west on Buckingham -- originally Temple Emmanuel. Later we met at the 618 Buckingham house for worship and meetings.
In rebuilding, three priorities had to be taken into consideration. 1) The building must be functional and energy efficient. 2) The love of music had lured many to donate money for the pipe organ and hopefully it could be restored and if possible, enhanced. 3) The building must be in accordance with City of Chicago Building Codes and handicapped accessible.
Richard Kalb, an architect familiar with many award-winning churches, designed the present church building with its artistic brick work. Stained glass, the wooden cross and other artifacts from the old church were brought into the new setting.
Many previous members who had moved away gave substantial sums of money in memory of the fellowship they had enjoyed at Broadway. Music lovers gave money they designated to repair and enhance the organ.
A miracle came to pass in 1990 and like a dream come true, we were able to celebrate two days of consecration and the 100th anniversary of our founding.
Subsequently, during the pastorate of Reverend Fred Morris, the basement was completed and the elevator and air conditioning were installed.
Revered Gregory Dell was appointed as pastor in July of 1995.
Broadway United Methodist Church is open to all people and embraces both church and community organizations. It stands as a symbol of faith and love, inviting everyone to experience the spirit of God in worship and the world.
Written by Ellenora Bose, March 1996
Broadway's History 1995-present
Rev. Gregory Dell came to Broadway on July 1, 1995, leading a Koinonia Congress to revamp the whole committee structure in September 1995.
The church decided in the spring of 1998 to purchase a new organ to replace the failing pipe organ. After much discussion, listening and deliberation, the decision was made to buy a digital organ (one in which each tone is a recording of a real pipe organ). Dana Brown was hired as Music Director at that time. He was familiar with a digital organ.
Pastor Gregory Dell had performed same-sex holy unions when asked over the years. He had a policy of requiring numerous counseling sessions before the ceremony whether for same-sex or different-sex unions. After the trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech in Nebraska, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church ruled that the sanctions against same-sex holy unions had the effect of church law even though the sanctions appeared in the previously non-enforceable Social Principles section of the Book of Discipline. Pastor Dell, following his own moral and social principles and the posture of the congregation toward same-sex couples, performed a holy union of two male members of the church in September 1998.
Pastor Dell received a letter from Bishop Sprague on October 12, 1998, that a formal ecclesiastical complaint had been filed against him. News spread through the media and Rev. Fred Phelps of Kansas demonstrated against Broadway, which brought forth powerful community support for the church. Over 1500 persons formed a Circle of Care around the church building while members worshiped the day of the demonstration. Media attendance and exposure continued as the day of the trial approached, finally attraction national attention and reporting. The presence of the media was carefully controlled so that the quality of worship was never compromised. Visitors came from all over the world to provide support to the congregation and to our pastor which confirmed the strong support our church gave him.
Pastor Dell was brought to trial in March of 1999 for disobeying the rules stated in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. He was found guilty and was suspended indefinitely. He and his counsel, Rev. Larry Pickens, appealed his sentence and it was changed to suspension for one year, starting July 1, 1999.
Rev. Jenny Weber was assigned as pastor of the church from July 1, 1999, to June 30, 2000. She had previously served as Associate Pastor of the church for two years asp art of her field education work at the seminary. She made her decision not to conduct any weddings or holy unions during her year of service with our church.
Rev. Greg Dell became National Director of an organization called "In All Things Charity" on July 13, 1999. This national movement, which Pastor Dell had helped initiate after the 1996 United Methodist General Conference, now had full-time staff to contact and witness to delegates to the 2000 United Methodist General Conference. The financing and other support for education and promotion was centered at Broadway United Methodist Church.
Broadway contracted in February 2000 with the Mennonite Peace Center for a series of Conflict Resolution Workshops to help in dealing with conflicts expected to arise from the decisions for the 2000 General Conference. In March 2000, members were introduced to the process by letter and then in a workshop, "Conflict in the Church." The facilitator, Jackie Lynn, also held smaller group meetings which were helpful in learning how to handle the expected conflict.
The 2000 Untied Methodist General Conference took place May 2-11 in Cleveland, Ohio. Basically, those who controlled the vote there reflected views more in line with the so-called Christian Right than with the traditionally liberal Untied Methodist denomination. Broadway Church, with over 30 members in Cleveland, gave an impressive and vocal witness, but to no avail. We lost ground, even seeing what had been social principles made into legal rules.
The decision of the Cleveland General Conference to retain sanctions was very disappointing, leaving many members feeling that to remain in the denomination was to choose to remain in an abusive relationship with no hope of relief for a very long time. They began to consider leaving the church.
The lessons learned in the Conflict Resolution Worships helped the church to deal with these issues. Small and large group sessions were well attended in May and June, 2000, and led to the creation of the Broadway Future Task Force. The task force requested and received many responses from the other church members. It finally presented four options for action to the Church Council on December 12, 2000. (The options were held over for action at the Charge Conference in January 2001.)
A. Constructive Engagement with the United Methodist denomination. This included allowing designated giving and continued support of national movements such as the Reconciling Ministries Network.
B. Constructive Engagement as above plus federating with either a United Church of Christ or a Disciples of Christ congregation.
C. Leaving the UMC to form an independent congregation.
D. Staying in the UMC but ignoring the Discipline's exclusionary policies.
The Church voted in the January 14, 2001 Charge Conference, by over a sixty-six percent majority of those present, to adopt Option A. This occurred after a statement by Bishop Sprague that he and the District Superintendent would resist any of the alternatives other than Option A. His statement came as a surprise to church members, influencing them to reconsider their choices, but it is impossible to know certainly what the overall effect was on the vote. Option B received the next most votes, but a run-off was not required. More than sixty percent of the church members were present and voted at the Charge Conference.
Membership grew slowly but steadily from mid-1995 to 2007. It increased more substantially after Rev. Greg Dell's trial in mid-1999, including Rev. Jenny Weber's interim pastorate. Visitor attendance increased, and the sanctuary was often packed for the late Sunday morning service. Membership in the church choir markedly increased during the exceptional ministry of former Music Director Dana Brown.
In September of 2003, the Reverend Vernice Thorn became the first full-time Assistant Pastor in Broadway's history. Rev. Thorn is an ordained clergywoman in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination. Vernice began her work with Broadway as a part-time Field Education student assistant pastor in September of 2001. Her gifts of pastoral care, preaching, personal spirituality and commitment to full diversity have enhanced the ministry of Broadway many times over. She was made Associate Pastor in 2006. Rev. Vernice continued her integral role here as Pastor until June 2016.
In February 2007, the Reverend Gregory Dell announced to the full congregation that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Rev. Dell remained under appointment through June, performing pastoral duties as able. He was not able to preach of participate in worship from February until June 30th when he went on disability leave. Rev. Vernice Thorn stepped up, along with many laity, to lead the congregation during this time.
Rev. Jenny R. Weber returned to Broadway, under appointment beginning August 1, 2007. She announced to the congregation in March 2009 that she was taking another call beginning in August 2009.
Rev. Lois McCullen Parr began her appointment at Broadway on August 15, 2009.
Rev. Alka Lyall began her appointment at Broadway on July 1, 2015.