Central Methodist Church in Fayetteville begins a ministry to students at the University of Arkansas, at first by busing students from campus to the church for Sunday morning worship. As the ministry grows, a director is hired and student leadership takes shape.
Central Methodist and Wiggins Methodist partner to raise $25,000 and purchase two houses on campus across from Memorial Hall, which at that time was the Student Union. Rooms are rented out to Wesley students in one house, and the other house becomes the “Methodist Student Center” for Bible studies, lectures and social events.
Wesley becomes an autonomous ministry. The Chapel of the Cross is built for students to gather and worship on campus. The following year, the Education Building is constructed next door and includes meeting space, offices, restrooms, a kitchen, and an apartment.
Rev. Lewis V. Chesser, Jr., served as Director of the Wesley Foundation from 1967-1982. During his tenure, he was able to nurture more than 40 young people into the ministry. Rev. Chesser was appointed to Wesley for 15 years, just around the time the Education Building was constructed. Many of these early students continued to serve in ministry later in life, including Rev. Phil Hathcock, who was one of the first students to connect with Wesley when it was created.
Under the direction of Rev. Gregg Taylor, the Wesley Foundation grows to become one of the largest student ministries on campus. Many future pastors, missionaries and lay leaders are formed by their time here.
In 2004, after falling into disrepair, the Education Building is torn down, leaving only the Chapel of the Cross. Discipleship and outreach continue through a new internship program called Catalyst.
In 2008, Rev. Omar Rikabi becomes the new Wesley Foundation director. While lack of facilities creates difficulty, Wesley is creative in its outreach to campus. The Chapel is used for officing, discipleship ministry, and worship. Believing their mission to be “loving the Razorback nation with the heart of Christ,” staff and students increasingly focus on servant evangelism and pray for an answer to building challenges.
The University of Arkansas offers to swap the Maple Street property for a new tract of land on Lindell Ave. With this move come freedom from debt and the opportunity to design and build a new Wesley House close to the heart of campus. Wesley moves to a temporary location for officing and small group ministry during the transition.
Under the direction of the Bishop and his Cabinet, the Wesley ministry forges a more explicit partnership with Central United Methodist Church, which agrees to take a primary role among Conference churches in the funding and oversight of U of A Wesley. Rev. Emily Burch is appointed to serve as Wesley’s Director while continuing as Central’s College Pastor.
We celebrate 90 years of faithful outreach on the campus of the University of Arkansas and we prayerfully look forward to the next 90 years! Come join the story of what God is doing through us!