Janet Carson was a long time member of Hope. She wrote this short history of our congregation.
The idea of an alternative United Methodist Church on the growing south side of Eau Claire was conceived by Henry Dreistadt, who at the time was superintendent for the Northwest district. The new church would be open to persons not involved in a community of faith or who felt reluctant to enter a more established congregation.
Bill Swan was appointed as the first pastor of the new “church start.” The first service was held at the Eau Claire YMCA downtown on September 13, l986 with a few curious attendees and an assortment of members from Chapel Heights and Lake St. UM churches who agreed to lend their support for a two year period. The services were relaxed and informal. One Sunday morning names for the church were suggested and by secret ballot the name “Hope” was chosen. Slowly the numbers increased and in three months a move was made to the South Middle School choir room for services. A homemade cross was raised and hooked into a room divider track each Sunday morning. A janitor’s sink was used to wash the coffee cups that the members brought from home. The spirit was wonderful and talented pianists accompanied fervent hymn singing. It was decided early on to turn down a gift of an organ for the new church. An all day retreat at Lake St. UMC produced the Mission Statement that we have today. It was also decided that in order to maintain an informal atmosphere neither the pastor nor the choir would wear robes. The choir would simply rise from their seats in the congregation and gather in front to sing their special numbers. As plans were made for the future church building, it was decided that chairs instead of pews would allow for more flexibility and allow the worship space to easily turn into a Fellowship Hall. Chairs with armrests were chosen from a company in Green Bay. To lower costs a volunteer drove a truck there to pick them up. Hymn books would be picked up by worshipers and returned to a rack at the entrance to the sanctuary.
When the membership reached 50, a chartering service was held on September 27, l987. A youth choir as well as an adult choir sang, The UWEC Faculty Brass Quintet played and the Rev. Bruce Bartel, Superintendent of the Northwest District , preached. All chartered members received an original silk screen print to commemorate the occasion. Many visitors attended as well as conference officials and pastors.
On April 15, l988 an old farm property on the south side of town was finally secured for the building. The property contained dilapidated farm buildings, many trees and piles of junk everywhere. The owner of the property had been a part time auctioneer and had a penchant for holding on to old farm implements. The cleanup was accomplished by volunteers. The trees were thinned out leaving a wonderful vista of woods and wild flowers.
The architects designed a simple structure with a soaring interior space for the sanctuary.
The homemade cross made the move from South Middle School. If you took a good look at it, its basement workshop origins were apparent. The congregation debated whether a fancier cross should be purchased for the new facility. They decided that keeping the simple cross from their days at South was an important reminder of the church’s origins. That cross still graces the sanctuary today.
Large windows looked out on a beautiful natural setting. Moving day was Sunday, March 4, l990. After the service members of the congregation loaded their cars with altar materials, hymn books, nursery and Sunday school equipment and rode in tandem to the Golf Road location. The new chairs were already in place and a cassette tape of Christian music was playing as members sat down silently and beheld the wonders of their new house of worship.