1852 - 1977
The missionary zeal of preachers at Naperville, Plainfield, and Oswego led to the formation of new church societies in the surrounding area. The Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church grew from the formation of two of these societies, Wheatland and Copenhagen, both of Wheatland township in Will County.
The Wheatland society organized in 1860 under the leadership of Samuel Dickover. A service, officiated by Bishop J.J. Esher, dedicated the church building on October 2, 1870. The society functioned prosperously until 1894 when a declining membership forced the church to close its doors.
The Copenhagen Church’s history began at the home of Enos Stark of Wheatland, Illinois on December 26, 1860. The society built and dedicated a church at the cross roads near David Brown’s home on May 5, 1861. Membership increased to 53 in 1888 and the Plainfield and Wheatland circuit began serving the Copenhagen Church. By 1905 the society deemed it necessary to either repair the old church or erect a new one. A dispute arose when some members requested that a new church be constructed one and a half miles south for convenience. In 1907 the members finally decided to agree on the new location. Simultaneously, they sent a petition to the Illinois Conference Session for permission to combine the defunct Wheatland Church and the Copenhagen Church. On April 5, 1908 Bishop S. P. Spreng held dedication services for the new church--the Salem Church.
The Salem Church continued to be served with Plainfield until 1920. On November 23, 1927 a fire completely destroyed the church building. Rather than remodeling the old structure, the society built a new church dedicated on November 25, 1928. By 1936, the church association requested that a parsonage be built for the residing pastor; they dedicated the manse on December 20, 1936. A few years later, 1947, the congregation decided to light the picture window of the sanctuary at night. To this day, the Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church is known as the “Church with the Lighted Window.”
Charge Conference in 1991 authorized the formation of a building committee to begin studying the ways of meeting the future needs of a numerically growing congregation. Between 1893 and 1992, the worship attendance level of the church had grown by 320%. Since the Wheatland Salem Church facility had been expanded just five years previously, the first option would be to further enhance facilities on the site at the corner of Rout 59 and 95th Street. In 1992 the firm of Jaeger, Nikola, and Associates of Park Ridge, Illinois was selected to work on the project.
The Building Committee and staff or the church developed the architectural proposal. Calculations for space needed were made based on congregational growth rates, demographic data from the school district and planning data from the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission. A building expansion plan was developed and presented to the congregation.
Upon presentation, discussion, and further reflection, the Building Committee came to the conclusion that the expansion plan would be too short sighted. God had a larger future for Wheatland Salem Church and simply adding on the current facility would entail a great deal of cost and effort only to be followed by another overcrowded situation. Conversations were undertaken with the adjacent landowners to determine the availability of additional acreage. Once it was determined that no additional land was available adjacent to the corner of Route 59 and 95th Street, the Building Committee proposed relocation to a new, undetermined property.
In 1994 the congregation voted to sell its location and seek another site. In addition, Harold and Verna Kemmerer came forward with a gift of 50 acres of their farm to be sold with proceeds going to the Building Fund for the new church. This amounted to a gift of well over $1 million.
The search and sale process took more than a year of intense effort. God made a way for the church to purchase the corner commercial property at Bok Road and 95th Street for just over $1.5 million. The Trustees supervised legal work that included annexing the Rt. 59 property into the City of Naperville, rezoning the Book Road property, the marketing and sale of the Kemmerer gift property, and leasing of the church buildings back to the congregation from the new owner of the Rt. 59 property during the period in which our new facilities were to be constructed.
In 1995 the congregation conducted a capital funding campaign, which resulted in over $1 million in cash and pledges. A Building Finance Task Force went to work identifying and interviewing potential commercial lending sources to assist in funding the construction of a new building estimated to cost $4 million. The Building Committee began the task of selecting a construction management firm.
During 1996 all of the work and planning came together to commence construction. The first construction management firm was released from contract and another firm, Concrete Structures of the Midwest, was selected to manage the project. The First Midwest Bank in Plainfield became the banking partner for the venture. The long process of annexation and rezoning was completed. The building permits were finally issued. On September 29, 1996 ground was broken to begin construction. A year later, on September 28, 1997, the first Sunday morning worship services were celebrated in the new home for Wheatland Salem Church.
The new facility is designed with flexibility and a future orientation. The approximately 43,000 square feet of space is over three times the size of the previous structure and the 13-acre site is nearly twice that of the former location. There are thirty classrooms, a full sized gymnasium/multipurpose facility, an interim worship center seating 300, advanced sound and video systems, a music room, prayer room, hospitality center, offices for twelve staff, space for an Adult Day Care, a kitchen, playground, parking for 200 (soon to be 300) cars, and outdoor areas for soccer, softball, and volleyball. Current debt on the entire project is $3.6 million.
A strong growth pattern continues. Wheatland Salem Preschool/Parents' Day Out Ministry has grown to 340 children. Sunday School attendance has increased to over 400. Worship attendance has grown to an average of 550 since relocating. The Adult Day Care will be opening by January 1, 1998.
The Building Committee designed the Wheatland Salem facilities to be constructed in two or three phases. The present building constitutes Phase 1. The next phases will include a permanent sanctuary and additional spaces for Christian education.
With thanks for all the God has done and with anticipation of all that God is going to do, we give praise to the Lord for this new tool with which to make a world of difference in Christ's name.