Church History

First United Methodist Church (1890-1998)

On December 2, 1890, a group of 31 people met in the home of Mr. P.H. Lyster to organize a Methodist Church. The first service was held at the home of J.C. Earl located on the present Harvey Municipal Center site. Rev. H.L. Houghton, the first pastor and a preparatory student at Northwestern University led the service. Afterward services were held at various homes and store buildings. As the membership began to grow, a chapel was purchased and dedicated in December 1891.

With membership still growing, the present building was dedicated and named Zella Gamble Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in 1914.

In autumn of 1954, realizing that the church must expand to meet the needs of a growing congregation of 1,020 members homes north of the church were purchased for expansion. The education unit was completed and dedicated by Bishop Pryor in 1968. Also in 1968, the merger of the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church became known as the First United Methodist Church. The church has had 26 pastors since it was first dedicated in 1890. Rev. Donald Jenkins became the first African-American student pastor in 1980 and Rev. Bernard King was the first African-American pastor in 1988.

Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church (1922-1998)

In 1922 a group of Christians who had settled in the area met at the home of Annie & Aaron Abbott for the newly organized Sunday School. As the membership grew, services were held in a “brush arbor” and later in a tent.

Members of Honore Avenue Methodist Church offered to share their church building for Wesley’s service in the morning. In 1925, the West Harvey School District donated one of its portable buildings as a house of worship. It was moved to the newly purchased site at 147th and Seeley. That was the first home of Wesley Methodist Church. The Rev. Hermes Zimmerman was assigned as the first pastor in 1924. As membership grew, the members of Wesley enlarged and beautified the building. A new building was erected on Robey Street in 1968. The mortgage was burned during the pastorate of Rev. Benisson. The church became self-supporting and refused financial assistance from the Northern Illinois Conference.

Wesley United Methodist Church has always had African-American pastors; the church had 24 pastors between 1924 and 1998. The doors of the church were always open to the community to provide spiritual enrichment as well as a secure, wholesome environment.

Academy United Methodist Church (1892-1998)

In the spring of 1891, a group of people under the direction of Walter Thomas Hills, bought several sections or prairie land just south of the city of Chicago and began the promotion of the town, later called North Harvey. With the growth of the town, and feeling the need for spiritual guidance, a Sunday School class was organized on May 2, 1892. Meetings were held at Academy, a school for first to sixth grades. The Academy was located at 147th and Broadway where the North Harvey Fire Department now stands. In October 1892, the Conference sent the first pastor, Rev. D. McGurk. Members of the church received financial assistance and a church was built and dedicated on May 14, 1893 at 146th and Green. In October 1893 a fire destroyed the building. A second building was erected I 1895 on the present site of the education unit, 146th Street between Green and Peoria. In July of 1920, a building committee was organized to study the future needs of the church and it was agreed that a new church would have to be built I order to accommodate the rapidly growing community. Property was purchased at 14539 Green Street in March of 1961 and on Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965 services were held in the new sanctuary. Academy had a total of 53 pastors since 1892. In 1978 Pastor Regina Roberts became the first African-American Assistant Pastor followed by Pastor Larry Pickens in 1981. The first African-American Senior Pastor, Dwight Stewart, was assigned in 1982. As the city of Harvey changed from predominately black so did the congregation of Academy United Methodist Church.

Over the years the ministry and mission of Academy United Methodist Church has grown and changed as it responded to a growing and changing community. The church served God’s word until March of 1998 when its congregation was united with the other two United Methodist Churches in Harvey, First & Wesley. Together they will serve God’s word to the south suburban community.

First Wesley Academy United Methodist Church (1998-2015)

Following the mandate of Bishop Sprague and his cabinet, Academy UMC, Wesley Memorial UMC and First UMC congregations were merged on March 1, 1996. The merged congregations became First Wesley Academy UMC (FWA). At this uniting Rev. Dr. A. O. Ogbonnaya was assigned senior pastor, retaining the former pastors Rev. Claude King, Jr., Rev. Darius Thomas and Rev. Leon Willis as his associate pastors. The new home for the uniting congregation was the First UMC site. The Congregational Development Task Force of the Northern Illinois Conference, Chicago Southern District made this decision. While the First UMC building was being renovated, Dr. Ogbonnaya held services at the former Academy and Wesley sites. Although it was a challenge, bringing the three congregations together, eventually the spirited services and increased fellowship united them as a family.

As the newly formed church went through growing pains, more transition occurred. Rev. Leon Willis was given a new assignment in November 1998 and Rev. Claude King Jr. in September 1999. Rev. Dr. Ogbonnaya served until April 2000. Rev. Darius Thomas received a new assignment at the 2000 Annual Conference.

Rev. Charles A. Woolery, Sr. was assigned senior pastor on July 1, 2000 after serving six years at Burns UMC in Des Moines, IA.

Under Rev. Charles A. Woolery’s leadership, the church adopted a new mission and vision statements, which helped to provide new direction for the church ministries.

The church membership and average worship attendance increased dramatically. Through the power of God, the church implemented new ministries, such as Operation Transformation Outreach. Nursery Ministry, Children’s Church, Family and Children’s Ministry, set Yourself Free, Nursing Home Ministry, Youth Ministry, BBD (Brothers Becoming Disciples), and S.H.I.N.E.

Believing that a church is as strong as its laity, Rev. Woolery stressed that teamwork can make FWA’s dream work. It is our dream to become a significant church in the southern suburbs of Chicago. Believing that “With God All Things Are Possible”, we know we can do it. The T.E.A.M. concept Together Everyone Achieves More will get us there. Through the power of the gospel, FWA is equipping changed people to change the world.

In the winter of 2006, special congregational meetings were held and the entire congregation had the ability to provide input in adopting a new mission and vision statements. These will provide clear direction as FWA continues to grow and evolve.

Rev. Woolery served FWA until June 2013. Rev. Dennis M. Oglesby Jr. was assigned as pastor effective July 1, 2013. We believe that Pastor Oglesby will continue the mission of FWA “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” 

Transformation Community United Methodist Church (Est. 2015)

Rev. Dennis M. Oglesby, Jr. was assigned to First Wesley Academy (FWA) in July of 2013. After serving the congregation for two years, the Ivanhoe United Methodist Church, in Riverdale, IL. indicated that their congregation was interested in merging with FWA. Pastor Oglesby, with the permission from the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, began meeting with the members and leaders of both Ivanhoe and FWA to develop a mutual vision for ministry and outreach. Together both congregations designed a structure that would be advantageous for both congregations. The newly merged congregation would worship within the First Wesley Academy building. After much prayer and leading from the Holy Spirit, both leadership teams discerned that Transformation Community (TCUMC) would be the name of the merged congregation. The merger was finalized in August of 2015.

TCUMC doubled its efforts to reach out to the community by strengthening the Food Pantry and continuing to serve Hot Meals weekly. 

After serving a total of seven years in the Harvey community, Rev. Oglesby was assigned to serve the Sherman United Methodist Church in Evanston, IL. effective July 1, 2020. The Rev. Dwight A. Stewart was assigned to serve Transformation Community UMC as senior pastor effective July 1, 2020.