Several years before Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1860, a small group of people from Byron Township gathered and started a bible study, sometimes meeting in homes or in the old McKenney School located one mile west of Byron Center. A Methodist circuit rider came and organized a “circuit” of the bible study and other area groups to meet for Worship and Bible Study.
Just after the American Civil War ended, a larger group gathered and began to plan a Methodist Church. With the war over and our nation charting a new course in history, an ever-growing congregation gathered around a pot-bellied stove and began charting a course that would take God's Word into the 20th century.
In 1872, a property was bought and work began on the church building, located at the corner of Prescott and Freeland in the small newly platted village of Byron Center. The building was dedicated on February 18, 1874 as the “Byron Center Methodist Episcopal Church.” During this same time, the “circuit” parsonage in Kelloggsville was sold and a new one was built on the West side of the church.
Throughout the history of the church, the congregation has expanded and adjusted the building in order to meet the needs of an ever-changing membership. Shortly after the building was completed in 1874, a need for more space became apparent. Plans for building a basement were discussed at various times, and twice, the project had been started. During the Depression, the donated funds were lost in the bank closure and plans for the basement were abandoned. Finally, in 1942, the Women’s Society for Christian Service took full responsibility for the basement project.
On March 30, 1942, the work was started to build a church basement. There was a lot to be done with the support of many volunteers. During the excavating and building of the basement, worship services and all other church activities continued.
A merger in 1939 within the Methodist Episcopal denomination changed our name to the Byron Center Methodist Church. During the last half of the 1940’s, the parsonage was sold and moved to 2443 Prescott Street, and a new brick parsonage was built in its place.
As Christianity grew over the centuries, it changed from being “one church” to many divisions and denominations, which offered many doctrines and theologies. Around 1914, an ultra-conservative group that called themselves “Fundamentalist” began to have an influence on many of the mainline denominations and local churches.
Because of this ever-growing influence, in 1955, the Byron Center Methodist Church experienced a congregational split of its own. The church's pastor Rev. J.A. Paulson wanted the Byron Center Church to leave the Methodist denomination, as he felt that it was not conservative enough. After a vote was taken as to whether the church was to remain a Methodist Church, Rev. Paulson and some followers left and immediately formed the Byron Center Undenominational Church, later called the Byron Center Bible Church.
In the early 1960’s, under Rev. Donald A. Russell, two additions were built onto the church and the interior of the church was completely remodeled. There was an extension of 20 ft. to the south end of the church and the front was extended beyond the steeple and the basement enlarged accordingly. This extension provided a new front entry for the church. On April 7, 1963, a consecration service for the two new additions and the remodeled church was held.
The Methodist and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches merged in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church, which changed our name to the Byron Center United Methodist Church.
During the late 1960's and early 1970's, growth in the church was rather minimal. There was, however, a rapid growth pattern in the Byron Center area during the 1980's. In 1987, Rev. Bill Doubblestein became the pastor, and under his leadership, the church began to experience rapid growth. The problem of adequate space was apparent in the expanding Sunday School program.
After many months of serious study, it was decided that the church should enlarge our present structure. At a Charge Conference on August 18, 1991, the congregation approved the construction of the Fellowship Hall and Education Wing. The ground breaking service was held on Sunday, October 20, 1991. Before construction could begin, the brick parsonage had to be removed. It was sold and moved to its new foundation at 2437 87th Street.
Construction of the new addition began during the winter of 1991-1992. On November 7, 1992 the large church addition “Fellowship Hall/Education Wing” was dedicated.
In 2004, Rev. Cynthia Greene became the pastor. Under her guidance, on June 30, 2005, Byron Center UMC became the new owner of 27 acres. The land is West of Byron Center on Homerich Ave. and is just across Homerich from Byron Center West Middle School. The dream and intent was to use this land to build other facilities beyond the original church building such as a gymnasium or ball fields to enhance and grow God’s work in Byron Center. In the fall of 2005, the church launched a Capital Stewardship Campaign called “Acts 2: Serving Family, Community, and World Together.” Because of a struggling economy and changing times, the congregation continues to work beyond that initial campaign to pay off the debt. The Acts 2 Team continues to find creative ways to keep the dream alive and in front of the people, as well as to celebrate paying off the debt.
In the latter part of the last decade (2007-2010) the Byron Center United Methodist Church experienced a setback. Decreased attendance eliminated the need for two services. The paid staff had to be moved to volunteer status. As a result, many of the programs struggled for survival.
In the spring/summer of 2010, the Byron Center UMC leadership was determined to re-adjust our programs, ministries, and our worship style for a new start. The Christian Education Department began to rebuild itself and some programs and ministries were restarted. The parsonage on Meadow Haven Dr. was renovated with the help of many volunteers. In the winter of 2012, there was an interior face-lift with new carpet and paint in the church building's upper level and the entryways.
In 2014, Byron Center UMC celebrated its 140 year anniversary of the dedication of our original building in 1874. A worship celebration was held on Sunday April 27, 2014 to rededicate the church.
This picturesque old church with its tall steeple has been a familiar landmark at the corner of Prescott and Freeland in Byron Center for 140 years. It has seen two World Wars and the Great Depression; faced building projects, sprits of rapid growth and expansion, times of struggles and hardships, and years of ministry to God's people in Byron Center.