The History of Kingsley United Methodist Church
A Story of Vision, Courage, Faith and Hope
The records of the Methodist Alliance of Erie show that Kingsley had its beginning as far back as 1901 when the Methodist Alliance sanctioned the proposed plan of Rev. D. C. Plannette of 10th Street Methodist Church to organize a Sunday School on W. 10th St at the home of Mrs. Grace Skinner. Average attendance was 35.
In August 1902, a committee was appointed to select a site for a church in the northwestern part of the city and three months later reported an available site near the corner of Ninth and Cranberry streets, then the western frontier of the city. But they were unable to come to satisfactory terms with the present owners.
In November 1903, the committee was authorized to purchase a lot and in February 1905 they recommended that the lot at Ninth and Cranberry Streets be purchased. The following September 1906, the committee reported having purchased the lot at cost of $1,700. At a meeting of the Executive Committee on November 9th, 1906, plans were submitted for an “auditorium” and Sunday School room at an estimated cost of $15,000.
The Sunday School part was to be erected first and used as a chapel until such time as the auditorium should he needed.
**Note that in 1906 the country was in an economic recession and the average worker earned only $200-400 per year so $15,000 was a very major commitment for the time.**
At this meeting, it was resolved to build a church and to work to raise $8,000 by subscription. Four of the members, William Hamilton, A. W. Walker, Wm. Hardwick and H. A. Walker, then and there subscribed $1,000 each and on April 12th the plans were adapted and the trustees were authorized to build. J. W. Yard and his son James B. Yard, drew the plans and Mr. D. S. Milloy then built the church.
The name Kingsley Methodist Episcopal Church was given to the church at this time. The church was named for Bishop Calvin Kingsley who was born in Annsville, New York in 1812. He graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. in 1841 and became an assistant professor of mathematics and civil engineering there. That same year he was married and also became a Methodist lay preacher in the Erie Conference. He served as a supply pastor in 1840 and then in 1844 as pastor of Wesley Chapel, the predecessor of what became First United Methodist Church in Erie, Pa.. From 1855 to 1856, he was vice-president of Allegheny College. Kingsley was appointed a Bishop in 1860 and was moved to Cleveland, Ohio. In 1869, Bishop Kingsley volunteered to carry out Jesus’ missionary message. During an around-the-world trip, visiting Methodist missions in Japan, China, Singapore, India, and the Holy Land, his life ended after a brief illness in 1870 in Beruit, Lebanon.
The new church building was dedicated December 8, 1907. On the day of dedication, total pledges amounting to $18,000 were reported with a good share of the pledges coming from the members of the First Methodist, Simpson, Wayne St. and Cascade Methodist Churches of Erie. Rev. John E. Roberts was the first pastor of Kingsley and had charge of the dedicatory services. The dedication took place at 3 p. m. The Rev. Andrew C. Ellis of Oil City. Pa. at one time the pastor of First Church, Erie, and who had done all in his power to establish Kingsley Church, delivered the sermon, the subject being “Lessons From the Life of Bishop Kingsley.”
The program for the day lists this record of the officers of the church:
Trustees —The M. E. Alliance of Erie
Stewards — B. P. Hogan, C. H. Daub, James B. Yard, John G. Abell,
H.D.Greeley, F. W. Newsham, P. G. Sedgwick and H. O. Reeder.
Recording Secretary — D. S. Thomp
Treasurer — John Waidley
Financial Secretary — Frank E. Bixby
Sunday School Superintendent — Miles R. Nason
Class Leader — H. C. Miller
Ladies’ Aid President Mrs. John G. Abell
Pastor’s Aid President — Irvin Miller
Choir Director — Wm. J. Gives.
Organists — Miss Grace Tuttle and Mrs. F. C. Gillette
Choir Members — Mrs. Sarah Near, Mrs. E. B. King, Mrs. Mabel McFayden,
Mrs. Fred Babcock, Mrs. B. P. Hogan, Mrs. W. J. Gives,
Mrs. F. C. Gillette, Mr. J. W. Waidley, Mr. W. J. Gives,
Mr. H. A. Messenger, and Mr. B. P. Hogan.
The newspaper account of the dedication said in part: “When the final word had been spoken in the impressive dedicatory service at the new Kingsley M. E. Church yesterday afternoon, one of the most significant events in the history of Erie Methodism was brought to a close. It was an event to which the Methodist churches, of this city have contributed with a heartiness and a generosity and sympathy unique in the circles of any denomination …To the Methodist Alliance and especially its president, Byron A. Walker great credit is due for the complete success of the project. Mr. Walker has given of his time unsparingly to insure the most complete triumph possible for the new church, and he has superintended the details of the undertaking with a faithfulness and an ability which must be recognized as one of the leading factors in the work.”
On July 3, 1912 the Methodist Alliance deeded to the trustees of Kingsley Church the land and church in consideration of the sum of $1.00. Thus ends the account as contained in the minutes of the Alliance. Kingsley at the time of the dedication had 102 members and 130 members in the Sunday School.
During the pastorate of Rev. Redinger, the parsonage was built. Under the leadership of Rev. Cass, an additional frontage of 40 feet on West Ninth was purchased.
Through the years, Kingsley grew in service and numbers. During the pastorate of Rev. Frank S. McKnight, it was decided to build the present Gothic style sanctuary and to make the old church a modern educational center. A financial campaign was held December 5, 1926. Bishop Berry assisted and pledges amounting to $35,000 were taken.
Ground was broken March 20th, 1927, and the corner stone was laid on May 8th. The new edifice was dedicated September 25, 1927 with Bishop J. F. Berry officiating. Building the new sanctuary, and improvements to the old educational unit, cost about $70,000. Kingsley Church then faced difficult years during the great depression, including the threat of closure in 1939. But a faithful membership, loyal trustees, and generous assistance from Mr. and Mrs. B. A. Walker and Mr. and Mrs. Leon Briggs enabled the congregation to weather the storm until better days. A final drive made in the spring of 1944 resulted in a cash offering on Easter Sunday, April 9th of $7,166.74. This offering represented 157 separate gifts including one gift of $2,000 from Mr. Leon Briggs and a gift of $771 from Mr. Frank Bixby, a charter member.
On Tuesday, April 11, 1944, the trustees paid in full the final mortgage of $5,600. Kingsley Church was at long last free of indebtedness and equipped with an excellent home which was noted for the beauty and dignified design of its sanctuary. By this time, its membership had grown to over 500.
In 1950, the original building was remodeled to create the present parlor area and rebuild the classroom spaces.
By 1957, once again to meet the needs of a growing church, a new educational facility became necessary. Ground breaking for the new Memorial Hall took place on Palm Sunday, April 14th, 1957. The total cost of the new addition and renovation of older portion was $130,000. That same year, on December 8, the 50th anniversary celebration of the church was held. Kingsley had grown to be a 700 member family with over 550 in Sunday School.
During the 1960’s Kingsley suffered some shrinkage of the membership. The post World War II religious enthusiasm of the 1950s had begun to wane, the anti-establishment mood of the 1960s was prevalent, and two new Methodist congregations west of Kingsley were established. However, the Kingsley program continued strong with such activities as a children’s day camp on Presque Isle, a community-wide senior citizens group, an active Boy Scout Troop, annual youth study trips to our Methodist seminar sites in New York City and Washington, D.C., a children’s Sunday School that met for two and a half hours every week up through grade three, and thirteen weeks of Wednesday services at the Peninsula every summer.
By 1968 Kingsley was able to retire the remaining $18,000 mortgage on Memorial Hall and celebrated the occasion with Bishop Roy Nichols in attendance. During this time, Kingsley shared Ms. Elizabeth Proctor with Cascade Church and later with Glenwood Church as parish visitor and education director.
Outreach concerns of the church were exemplified by a Labor Day weekend pilgrimage in 1972 when 28 members of the church took their trailers and tents and traveled to Lawrenceville, Pa., to help restore flooded homes and churches in that community after the devastation of Hurricane Agnes. A newspaper article stated; “many people have expressed amazement at the congregation of a church that would come so far and do so much for people they do not know. They brought their own cooks, baby-sitters, electricians and carpenters, campers, trailers and food. Their ages were from 6 to 70.”
During the 1974-76 period, a two-car garage and new driveway for the parsonage were completed and the parsonage was remodeled.
In 1975, another Kingsley group traveled to the Salvation Army Camp at Star Lake, New Jersey to spend a long weekend doing maintenance and repairs to help prepare the camp for the summer season.
In the 1980’s, two additional major renovations were undertaken. The basement area under the original church building had become termite infested and was removed and the floor cemented. The original wooden floor in Fellowship Hall was also torn out and replaced with cement. New walls were constructed including an area that can be converted to a stage for Fellowship Hall. An elevator lift was also installed to improve accessibility between the entry, basement and first floor levels.
During the 1990’s, Pastor Todd Davis played a leadership role in the construction of a neighborhood playground on the property of the former Emerson Elementary School.
In 1999, a 15 passenger van was purchased to provide transportation to the church and for youth trips.
In 2001, a joint Disciple Bible study was begun with members of First Methodist Church and continues to this day.
In 2005, after much volunteer labor and many material donations, the basement area under the original church building was transformed from a storage area into a warm and inviting meeting space, the “Haven”.Now home to Kingsley’s bands and offering Saturday night contemporary Christian music in a coffeehouse setting, Open Mic and Karaoke nights, and a meeting space for Girl Scouts and other groups.
In the fall of 2005 a fund raiser was held in the Haven to benefit a neighboring family who lost their home to fire.
In 2006, in anticipation of our 100th Anniversary celebration, a renovation of the church Parlor was completed with volunteer labor and memorial contributions.
In 2007, an informal 8:00 am Sunday worship service was introduced and is growing in popularity.
n the spring of 2007 fundraisers were held for Kaleet, a young friend of Kingsley, to help with expenses related to his kidney transplant. Kingsley is a generous and caring congregation.
The youth and their leadership enjoy weekly fun activities such as scavenger hunts, pool and ping-pong, “fear factor” trips to a tubing park. They can be found at Frontier Park for fishing in the summer and sledding in the winter, paintball in Corry, the Alivefest in Ohio, and Kingdombound at Darien Lake for a concert and spiritual activities.
The youth continue to be focused on service and mission with trips to Red Bird, Kentucky; trips in association with “Youth Works” to Rand, West Virginia to assist the rural poor; Nashville, Tennessee, where they participated in outreach by visiting nursing homes and working in daycare centers.
Birmingham, Alabama, where urban ministry was done; building and repairing homes, working with inner-city youth, and serving in shelters for the homeless, and most recently, to the Pittsburgh Project where repair work was done on a home located in one of Pittsburgh’s worst neighborhoods.
Mission projects in Erie have included visiting shut-ins at Christmas, serving at the City Mission, and helping at the Alliance’s Rainbow Connection thrift store and the House of Healing.
A week at Kingsley is a busy one filled with Saturday night Haven, Sunday informal and traditional worship services, Sunday School, Bible studies, Neighborhood Watch meetings, weekly free guitar lessons, committee and council meetings, Griefshare support groups, the Klub Kingsley after school program for children, bell and chancel Choir practices, youth meetings and more. And many long standing traditions continue; a strong music program, fund-raising dinners, Christmas candy-making, aluminum recycling, rummage sales, Vacation Bible School with the neighboring Northwest Covenant churches, August family camping retreats, and annual fall women’s retreats.
New groups continue to form including a Nurturing Committee, extending care and concern to current members and friends, a committee for outreach, and a new “WEB” (Women Enriched by Blessing) group.
As Kingsley enters its Second Century of ministry to the community surrounding 9th and Cranberry we are seeking additional new ways to revitalize our ministry and expand our outreach into our neighboring community. In 2007 we sponsored outreach picnics at the Peninsula, continued to develop our internet web site, continue to use email as a way to communicate prayer concerns, broadcast Kingsley events on the Erie cable access TV channel and will add electronic payment of offerings and other gifts to our web site. Kingsley is alive with activity and growing in spirit and outreach.
December 8th, 2007 marked 100 years at the corner of 9th and Cranberry. As has occurred throughout the years we have a number of needs; a boiler that will be replaced, an 80 year old pipe organ that is failing, outdoor signage needing modernization, projection systems for both the Haven and the sanctuary to allow the use of modern media, new sanctuary carpet, etc. Once again we are asking the members and friends of Kingsley to step forward and financially support these needs with our “Second Century Capital Campaign Fund” to allow us to continue our ministry in the City of Erie.
We look back proudly at the accomplishments of Kingsley Church over the past century. We are proud that this congregation has served and worshipped in this place to the honor and glory of Christ. We pray that we will continue to be true to our Lord and responsive to His call. May God bless our endeavors in the next 100 years!