The history of Wesley Chapel dates back to the early years of the Emancipation Proclamation. Wesley Chapel was organized in 1867 by Brother Lowe Tomlinson, Rev. Joe Laney (a trial preacher), and Brother C.A. Kent, also a preacher.
The organizational meeting for Wesley Chapel and the first church building, as crude as it was, was at a location 11.5 miles south of McDonough, on the property of Brother Lowe Tomlinson.
On June 12, 1873, the trustees of this newly organized church were able to purchase from Quinces R. Nolan of Henry County, two acres of land - more or less for the sum of $45. The boundaries of the property, listed in the Record Books at the Henry County Recorders Office are as follows:
“Two acres of land more or less lying near to and south of the town of McDonough - 1/2 mile from the public square and between Griffin and Forsyth Streets, bordered on the north by a fence dividing it from other lands of J.B. Nolan; east by Forsyth Street or Road; South by land of J.E. Black, and divided from the same by an old road running from Forsyth Street in a Southwest direction into Griffin Street, and West by the Griffin Street or Road with all rights.”
- Recorded June 13, 1873 by B. N. McKnight, Henry County.
The original name of Wesley Chapel was Kent Chapel Methodist Church in honor of Brother C.A. Kent, one of the founding fathers, who went on to become Kent Chapel’s first official pastor. It was under his ministry that the Church acquired the 369 Macon Street property site from Quinces R. Nolan.
There have been four church names over the years: Kent Chapel Methodist Episcopal, John Wesley Methodist Episcopal, Wesley Chapel Methodist Church, and now Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church.
The original structure built on this site was destroyed by a storm, and a second structure was started shortly thereafter.
During the 1880’s, it was a one-room building, which consisted of a choir stand, pulpit and a bell tower, which housed one of the largest bells in Henry County. The bell was relocated to the new church on Racetrack Road.
Upon completion of the second structure, a new name came with the newness of the building. Due to the impact of the Founder of Methodism and his travels through Georgia some one hundred years before there was a Kent Chapel, the officials changed the name of the church from Kent Chapel Methodist Church to John Wesley Methodist Episcopal.
The 369 Macon Street church building was designed and erected under the pastorate of Rev. P.L. Travis in 1922. The five stained glass windows were added in 1924 and later moved to the new church on Racetrack Road.
No Methodist church is complete without a parsonage which provides a home in the community for the pastor. Under the pastorate of Rev. J F. Dorsey, the first parsonage was built between 1922 and 1927.
In 1998, the old church parsonage was converted into office space and meeting rooms. A new parsonage was purchased at 1376 Lake Forest Lane in Lakehaven subdivision in McDonough.
Under the Old Georgia Conference, Wesley Chapel was host to three Annual Conferences - 1909, 1927 and 1936. Electric lighting and indoor plumbing was added in the 1930’s; an oil furnace installed in 1943; became a full time church in 1952; received the crystal chandelier in 1953; hosted high school graduations; hosted a youth conference in 1955; installed air conditioning in 1967; and purchased a concert grand piano and organ in 1984.
Under Rev. Dr. Robert Stovall, Wesley Chapel became a four Sunday church and oversaw a complete renovation of the church including a bulletin board in front of the church and pulpit furniture for the church.
In 1992, Wesley Chapel launched a Building Fund Program under the pastorate of Rev. King A. Harris.
During 1999 under the pastorate of Rev. Woodrow Williams, Wesley Chapel was blessed to purchase 10 acres of land, at 397 Racetrack Road, for the construction of a new church facility. Also a new church van was purchased to enhance the Outreach Ministry.
On May 7, 2002 the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new facility and the construction began three weeks later with a completion date in early 2003. The first worship service at 397 Racetrack Road was held on the church’s 136th anniversary, February 16, 2003.
Between 2004 and 2005, the new brick bell house and brick walk was completed by John E. Johnson.
The sanctuary balcony was finished in 2008 under Rev. Sharma D. Lewis, the first female pastor appointed to the church. The church grew under her pastorate adding members and numerous new ministries.
Dating back to 1867, Wesley has had forty-eight (48) pastors. They are Reverends:
Joe Laney, C.A. Kent, Jackson Walker, George Ansley, John M. Hollingsworth, Elijah Little, James J. Elsby, Jacob D. Arnold, Robert T. Adams, Aaron Johnson, Alfred B. Allen, Emmett D. Giddens, James H. Grant, Lucius J. Preston, Vincent D. Jenkins, Charles T. Roberts, James M. Anderson, Jordan E. Watkins, Henry H. Mouzon, James A. Richie, Nervey John Crolley, Charles L. Johnson, James F. Demery, Matthew Monroe Alston, Patrick H. Travis, James Waverly Tharpe, John Franklin Dorsey, Columbus Wilson Adams, Henry E. Burns, Paul L. Inman, Joshua W. Swain, Albert R. Wyatt, Henry Hardy Backstrom, Frank Woodsworth Montgomery, Eldridge Webster McMillan, Sr., Woodson Coolmon Cato, Robert Corbitt Stovall, Walter Wade Wideman, William H. McIver, Robert G. Williams,
King Anthony Harris, Woodrow Williams, Sharma D. Lewis, Howard J. Wright, Renita H. Thomas, Bishop Alfred L. Norris, Theodore (Teddy) Rollins Jr., and William Bert Neal, III, who began his pastorate June 23, 2013.
From 1867 to this present day and time, God has blessed Wesley Chapel in ways too numerous to mention. Aside from assisting its own members in times of need, Wesley is forever rendering its assistance to its sisters and brothers in the community.