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Sunday, December 22, 2013


"Chicago Temple" -
Copyright Free. Antoine Taveneaux
Over the decades, a lingering question has often been raised as to why Wesley's leaders chose the Gothic style.  Legend, and the memories of early members, have claimed that a minister, Dr. Hovis or another, had made a trip to England and fallen in love with the historic style. Others would cite apparent evidence the idea came from Charter Member, and Board leader, A. Tyler. Church records indicate he presented a plan to the Board (in a meeting on Dec. 24, 1924) for building a new church along the line of the "Chicago Temple" (The First Methodist Church, Chicago).  It was noted that since it was gothic and was built in 1923, it was no doubt an inspiration.  The lack of documentation for the first explanation has often given way to the second.  There seemed little evidence to conclude strongly either way.
Now, however, there is evidence that Dr. William Forney Hovis, had made two trips aboard to visit England.  In 1907, as a young student he went to London for a six months stay and resided at the Thackery Hotel in London.  He went again in 1912, with his wife Ina, for a shorter visit.( National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 583830 / MLR Number A1 534; NARA Series: M1490; Roll #: 151).  These excursions provide ample time for a "love" and understanding of English Gothic Churches to have developed.

Wesley UMC
There is yet another nuance to be considered.  When "Brother Tyler", as they called him in 1924, presented them a plan for a building what was his purpose and what part of the Chicago church building was he really citing?  To answer, let's explore the form and nature of the noted "Chicago Temple."
The Chicago congregation, First Methodist Church, had been founded in the 1830's and as the huge city grew around they had a choice faced by many urban churches,. Should they stay and be swallowed by the high rises and urban pace? Should they move out into the suburbs and retain the look and feel of a traditional church?  In a spurt of innovation and missioned purpose, the church chose to stay in place in the heart of the city, retain the traditional grandeur of classical Christian churches and plan for future mission and growth to the burgeoning cityscape around them.  As a result, the street entrance to the church looks like just about any other skyscraper in downtown Chicago. Instead of a lobby and offices, however, you enter a lobby and sanctuary.  The first several floors contain several worship spaces, ministry areas, and offices.  Above those floors were many others to be leased to businesses
and professional people for office space (it is not stated but this may have built in a practical ongoing funding source for development and maintenance of the church). The parsonage (the home of the minister) is on one of the floors.  Above those floors, however, are numerous offices and business spaces.  On the first top, a gothic spire holds a small "sky chapel."
Tyler may have read about the progress of the church in the Christian Advocate article, "Chicago Temple Cornerstone Laid in Ceremonies" ( Nov.23, 1922, pg. 1470). He may have seen the article in the local paper, "Christianity's Cross Towers Over Chicago Temples of Business" (Oklahoman, September 29, 1924, pg. 1).  In that article, the emphasis is more on the witness of the Chicago church in the beating heart of Chicago life.   A lighted cross in the building's windows reflected the heart and purpose the church in their presence and witness downtown.  Board chair George Dixon noted of the new church: "Unique in many ways as a type of ecclesiastical architecture, it will bring together the spiritual and the lay activities of the church, giving from each a means of helpful inspiration to the other...American Methodism [in this church] has recaptured the spirit of the cathedral building.."[Emphasis added]
It may be that Mr. Tyler was thinking about the lovely Gothic architecture of the sanctuary of that "Chicago Temple" but, perhaps, he was thinking in loftier spiritual and philosophical terms as to the purpose of the church.  Perhaps he saw Wesley too had a chance to blend that medieval grandeur with a progressive and growing urban center in vital ministry.

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A special "Friends of Wesley" group is made of individuals, organizations, and businesses who wish to support the historic preservation of the century old and historically significant Wesley Methodist Church (Wesley United Methodist Church) founded in 1910.

The inspiring windows dating to 1928 honored people significant to local Oklahoma City history but also to the history of Oklahoma Methodism.

The church founding and development was guided by lay people who were leaders in Oklahoma City development in real estate, banking, business, and education.

It stands as a rare remaining example of Methodist Churches in the English Gothic style and as work by a significant early architectural firm.

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1401 NW 25th
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