Wenatchee Free Methodist Church
The birth of the church (1908-1915)
A Free Methodist homesteader from Nebraska, Harry Carricker, helped plant this church after arriving in the Wenatchee valley in 1902. Its population of barely 450, Wenatchee had seven churches (one Catholic, six Protestant). But none advanced Free Methodist/Wesleyan views of personal piety and social concern, which had birthed the national Free Methodist Church in 1860.
When the Great Northern Railroad put a line through Wenatchee in 1893, linking Seattle to Minneapolis, the population exploded.
In 1908, Carriker and other Nebraskan Free Methodists began holding home prayer meetings. The growing group rented local halls, including a funeral parlor. In 1912, they purchased a $600 ramshackle building at Peachey and Mission streets, formerly a Baptist church, and quickly upgraded it. That corner would be the church’s home for nearly seven decades.
The Wenatchee Free Methodist Church was officially incorporated on June 14, 1913, with 21 full members, seven probationary members, and a woman licensed “local evangelist” as its first supply pastor. Its first fulltime pastor came in 1915.
The childhood of WFMC (1915-1954)
That era’s traditional altar services, revivals, and tent meetings brought more growth as nine more pastors led the flock into the mid-1930s. The church was enlarged (1925), later lifted to dig a basement, requiring removal of enormous rocks.
Pastor Myron Boyd (1935-37) began a weekly gospel radio program on local station KPQ. He continued the program from Seattle, and in 1945 it became the denomination’s award-winning radio broadcast, “The Light and Life Hour.” Boyd was its director and voice until elected one of the Bishops of the Free Methodist denomination (1965-76).
Three pastors later (Alfred Hill, Burton Root, S.E. Fosket), the church building was again too small. To stay at that site, in 1949 they moved services to the basement and built a large block building around the old wooden church, later torn out. The church also acquired its first piano.
The adolescence of WFMC (1954-82)
Commitment to Gospel-preaching and discipling was strengthened in the 1950s when pastors started staying ten years or longer. In the past 58 years, with the exception of interim situations, six pastors have served. Pastoral stability and godly laity both contributed to the church’s growth and outreach.
Sunday school was a focus of Donald Hamm (1954-62), under whom the Wenatchee church won a national Sunday School contest sponsored by Christian Life Magazine. Increased attendance led to buying nearby properties and building a large Christian education wing, dedicated in 1962.
Clubs for children called Christian Youth Crusaders continued the whole-family ministry emphasis under Pastor Burton Root’s unprecedented second pastorate (1962-71). Morning worship attendance averaging 250 packed out the sanctuary.
Evangelism training called Salvation by Appointment came with Pastor George Delamarter (1971-82). Deciding the current cramped property couldn’t accommodate continuing growth, the church voted to move.
Orchard property at Fifth and Pershing, near Wenatchee Valley College, seemed the prime location. However, one of its co-owners was unwilling to sell to the church. The church waited and prayed. The “favorable” owner’s estate planning brought in a mediator to help divide common assets, enabling him to acquire full title. Two days after final papers were signed, the mediator died unexpectedly of a stroke. Now free to sell it all, the “favorable” owner accepted an offer to swap for 8.5 acres in East Wenatchee, deeded to the church from the estate of a faithful member. The old church was sold for offices and WFMC began meeting at the Seventh-day Adventist facility.
Ground was broken in 1978 for construction of a multipurpose worship facility, completed in 1979. Then, with only $300 in the bank, the church board voted to hire additional much-needed staff members, trusting God for their salaries. This expanded the church’s ability to train others for leadership and ministry. WFMC also hosted a Church Growth conference that reached about 500 FM clergy and lay leaders.
The young adult years of WFMC (1982-2009)
Attendance doubled to 600 in 1982, resulting in two packed-out morning services. Then a chronic heart condition led Pastor Delamarter to step down. His son Steve served as interim pastor for a year. The church retired its mortgage on the multi-purpose building and constructed a classroom/office wing debt-free. In anticipation of huge Easter attendance, the church rented the Civic Center for one large service drawing 1,400. Another year, more than 2,000 came to Easter services in the high school gym.
WFMC’s deeper foreign mission involvement began with the 1983 missionary conference featuring Ray Streutker from the Philippines. He challenged WFMC to help raise $45,000 for a mission center in Manila. On top of its own mortgage, WFMC met that goal and sent several mission teams to the Philippines.
After Pastor Les Krober’s arrival in mid-1983, the church supported new mission work in Chile and medical work in Haiti. Over the next thirty years, its human and financial mission investments would reach Kenya, Nigeria, Burundi, Ukraine and other Eastern Europe lands, Mexico, Columbia, Belize, and others. The church’s teens began taking short-term mission trips within the U.S. and overseas.
Maxed out in the multi-purpose gym/meeting room, in 1987 the church broke ground for a worship complex including an 800-seat sanctuary. The $2.2 million project was paid off in 1997. With a roomier sanctuary, attendance grew to 1,029 in 1992, the largest average attendance among American Free Methodist churches. Holidays required three and sometimes four services to accommodate attendees.
Pastor Krober left for another pastorate in 1994, later becoming the second Wenatchee pastor elected a Bishop of the denomination (1999-2005).
After two years with an interim pastor (Harlan Humiston) and short-tenure pastor (Jeff Pierce), John Paul Clark became lead pastor in 1996. Church-wide use of Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, resulted in more than 100 Small Groups forming. Eastmont Community Church became a sister congregation with its 1993 affiliation with Free Methodism.
Steady growth in the Christian education department resulted in remodeling and additions to the children’s wing in 1999-2000, paid off a few years later. With purchase of nearby property for future expansion, the church now has a 15-acre campus.
The mid-life years of WFMC (2009-present)
After Pastor Clark’s departure in mid-2009, and Les Krober’s role as interim pastor, Joshua Brooks became lead pastor in fall 2009.
He cast a vision for WFMC becoming an Isaiah 58 church investing in local and overseas needy. His advocacy of ministries in war-torn Burundi resulted in members funding basic homes and livelihood training for homeless widows. WFMC also backed a new mission school among the nomadic Fulani in Nigeria. Missionaries with ties to WFMC now serve throughout the world.
WFMC members reach out locally through various ministries to the poor and at-risk populations. A Be the Church Sunday of community volunteerism began in autumn 2010. In 2015, WFMC merged its efforts with Wenatchee’s Make a Difference Day.
In November 2015, Pastor Mike and Cassie Wilson joined the staff as the new Lead Pastor at WFMC. He brings excitement and a fresh perspective to WFMC, and we are excited where the Lord will take us as we journey together with Pastor Mike on our new path.