Historical Dayton church celebrates 140 years

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

McKinley United Methodist Church, a historical landmark in Dayton, is celebrating 140 years of spiritual guidance.

Pastor Peter E. Matthews and his congregation recently celebrated in the parking lot of the church from the safety of their cars to celebrate the church’s anniversary and his fourth year of being their spiritual leader. It was the first time the church had gathered in the past six months.

“We celebrate our history but we keep on moving forward,” Matthews said.

In 1860, Black Methodists would go to services at the church when it was known as the United Brethren Church located on what used to be Court Street.

The church moved to Hawthorn Street in 1880. In 1896, the Hawthorn Street Methodist Episcopal Church was built by the Rev. J.H. Payne and would later become McKinley Methodist Church. The church was named after President William McKinley, who donated money to it.. The church would later merge with the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968 to become McKinley United Methodist Church.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

“Being a pastor at McKinley that’s come from such a great history has been such a joy," he said.

Matthews came to the church in 2016 after being appointed by Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer and has grown the congregation from 39 members to 150. In addition to belief in the Lord, Matthews attributes the churches success to the work of members.

“The miracles that are worked out, are not just coming out of the sky. They come from the tireless work and sacrifice of church mothers deciding to cook one more apple pie or from retired men when we can’t afford perhaps the typical maintenance fee to bring somebody in to fix something,” Matthews said. “It is undeniable the ingenuity and the creativity that Black people of faith have and McKinley is a wonderful example of what that looks like over an extended period of time.”

Church member and building manager Cheryl Davis credited the success of the church to having great pastors, members and ultimately blessings. “We’ve had so many blessings and I believe it’s the work that McKinley does. When you give, you get and I believe that’s how this church has really maintained its longevity," she said.

Davis said the church is a big part of her family as her mother and grandmother were members and would spend their Sundays there. She’s been a member most of her life, leaving only to go to college but returning several years later.

McKinley recently became an official historical landmark in the city. The church has withstood social changes as well as natural disasters with the Great Miami River flooding in 1913.

“People were coming here as refuge, but we’ve always been a community church for as long as I’ve known,” Davis said.

The church has plans to work with the Dayton Foodbank next year and further the efforts of their John E. Moore Center, including offering health insurance to immigrants and resources for homeless children and their families.

“We pray to God and we believe in God and we’ll be standing for another 100 years," Davis said.

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