It is one of the most beautiful and imposing sites in downtown St. Charles, a familiar landmark in the city’s rich history. Standing just west of the Fox River, Baker Memorial United Methodist Church towers above Main Street between 3rd and 4th avenues, its rose window of intricately patterned stained glass and its three stone crosses on the lawn keeping vigil over passers-by.
Baker Memorial United Methodist Church began its St. Charles origins in 1837, when Fox Valley Circuit Rider and Methodist Minister John Clark began gathering local worshipers together. Services were originally conducted in a schoolhouse at Fourth and Cedar avenues.
Records show that in 1842 a church site was obtained at the corner of Fifth and Walnut avenues, a gift of area citizens Minard, Ferson and Hunt, and a small stone church was built by public subscription.
On June 14, 1908, a new church of brick and stone was built and dedicated on this site, where St. Mark’s Lutheran Church stands today, and in 1919, a pipe organ was installed. This was donated by Col. Edward J. Baker in memory of his parents, Edward and Martha Baker, who served the Methodist Church in St. Charles in many capacities. In 1954 Col. Baker would follow this gift with an even greater memorial in their honor—the present church building overlooking Main Street, which was designed by Geneva architects Gray, Laz and Mall.
Preparation began in 1952, and the dedication ceremony was conducted on September 19, 1954. According to accounts of the time, Col. Baker’s $1.25 million-dollar gift was the largest single gift to Methodism ever bestowed by an individual. At its dedication, the Gothic-style structure was called “A great memorial … an enduring, exquisite cathedral where everyone might ponder the unbreakable ties of love.”
Our present congregation is still thankful for the amazing architectural beauty of Colonel Baker’s gift.
Today, Baker Memorial United Methodist Church continues in its goal to be a hub of Christ-directed activity radiating out to the world from the heart of St. Charles. In addition to worship services, the church offers Sunday School classes for children and youth ages 3 and up, as well as adult study classes. The active youth ministry for middle and high school students includes fellowship, Bible study, service projects and mission trips. Adults also participate in mission outreach, working with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans and many other activities. The Adult Ministry offers study, fellowship, service and social opportunities.
The church’s music ministry, under the direction of Jeffrey S. Hunt, is known throughout the community and offers six choirs, various instrumental ensembles and bell choirs. Baker Memorial Church also sponsors notable community music presentations, including the St. Charles Singers and many touring choirs that offer both sacred and secular music.
Baker Memorial United Methodist Church participates in many regional and global outreach programs and service projects. Locally, the church works in support of Lazarus House, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and the Northern Illinois Food Bank. It also sponsors local blood drives and health fairs, and hosts a Farmers’ Market at Fourth Avenue and Main Street every Friday year round.