History of John Wesley

In the spring of 1923 a small group of 5 or 6 persons were inspired by India Thompson, who had been a member of the A.M.E. Zion Church in Montgomery, Alabama, to organize a Zion Church in Muskegon. Included in this group of 4 or 5 women and 1 man was Mary Walls, a friend of Mrs. Thompson. After meeting several times the group informed Bishop George Blackwell of their desire.
    In 1924, Bishop Blackwell asked Rev. W.A. Johnston, the pastor of St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church, Grand Rapids, to come to Muskegon and conduct services each Sunday afternoon, and Rev. Johnston served in this capacity until Bishop Blackwell appointed rev. W.W. Roberts full-time pastor. Under Rev. Robert' leadership a church building was erected on East Webster. The "dream" became a reality.
    Throughout the following years, John Wesley was led by a succession of very fine, diligent and spiritual ministers that included Rev. P.C. Wilburn, Rev. Jesse L. Moore and Rev. George W. Wingfield.
    During the pastorate of Rev. Wingfield, the city of Muskegon donated a house to the church that became the first parsonage.
    In 1936, Rev. Moses J. Jones was appointed by Bishop John W. Martin as the sixth pastor of John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church and served the congregation for thirty-six years. During these years, goal after goal was met. The business acumen of Rev. Jones and the cooperation of the members were to accomplish many things. An $11,500 mortgage was paid off and properties were purchased that included a new parsonage at 71 East Walton, the house next door to the church, a house at 12 East Webster, and an adjacent lot on the corner of Spring and Webster Streets.
    In September of 1936 the Greater Muskegon Negro Social Center was organized and located in the church basement. By the 1940's the Negro Social Center, operating in cooperation with the WPA was serving over 2000 persons each month. The center had a music room and library of over 1,500 books, and served as the forerunner for what is now the Urban League of Greater Muskegon.
    In 1956, the Zion Neighborhood House of Christian Service was dedicated. this facility, erected adjacent to the Church served as a recreation and education center for the community.
    The church building became inadequate to meet the growing needs of the congregation and plans were discussed to relocate and rebuild. Subsequently, the property at Webster and Spring was sold and a block of property on Pine Street between Diana and Delaware was bought for this purpose. However, the membership decided to forego building. The present Church building and other property owned by Fifth Reformed Church at Wood and Amity was purchased in 1969. the congregation marched into the new John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church on July 15, 1970, free of debt and with no mortgage obligations.
    In 1972, after 36 years of service to John Wesley, rev. Jones retired, thus ending 50 years in the active pastorate. During his tenure at John Wesley, Rev. Jones was cited as a community, civic, and religious leader. He received many honors and awards including a Doctor of Divinity degree from Livingston College in Salisbury, North Carolina.
    In June of 1972, Bishop W.A. Hilliard appointed Rev. Jesse W. Crockett.
    During this time a group of ministers formed and organized the Opportunity Industrialization Center (O.I.C) of Greater Muskegon in which Rev. Crockett served as the first Executive Director.
    In keeping with the tradition at John Wesley, Rev. Crockett, with loyal support of the members, continued to set and surpass goals and heighten the spiritual life of the church.
    Bishop W.A. Hilliard appointed Rev. William Cunningham in June of 1977 and Rev. George W. Maize in August of 1978, as the next two pastors of John Wesley.
    Rev. Maize died in April of 1981 and was succeeded by Rev. John H. Williams who was appointed by Bishop Clinton R. Coleman.
    Rev. Williams served as pastor until June of 1985, at which time Bishop Coleman appointed Rev. Harry Spigner as the new pastor of John Wesley.



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