As old as Indianapolis itself, Meridian Street United Methodist Church was the first Methodist church in a town of log cabins and rutted roads. That first church in the city of Indianapolis in 1821 was known as Wesley Chapel. The congregation first met in Isaac Wilson’s log cabin on the Capitol Square grounds and was served by itinerant preachers. In 1825, a log cabin on Maryland at Meridian Street was purchased and enlarged to seat 200 people. It continued to be served by circuit riders. From 1829 to 1846, the congregation met in a small brick building on the Circle at Meridian Street. In 1846 the Wesley Chapel was torn down and a new church was built on the same site at a cost of $10,000; it housed the congregation during the Civil War and until 1869.
After the war, the congregation decided to build “the most beautiful church in the city.” They moved to New York and Meridian Streets and built an ornate Gothic structure with tall, slender spires for $100,000. This building served as their church home until a fire burned the church beyond repair in 1904. It was during this time that Wesley Chapel was renamed Meridian Street Episcopal Church.
On the national level, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784. In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to become The Methodist Church. When The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church formally united in 1968, the currently used name was adopted: The United Methodist Church.
For two years, from 1904 to 1906, the congregation met at the Propyleum on University Park while they built another Gothic building at St. Clair and Meridian Street. This structure cost $165,000 and housed the congregation for 40 years until 1946.
In 1946, Meridian Street Methodist merged with the 51st Street Methodist Church and met in the 51st Street building until the $525,000 necessary to build the present home at 5500 North Meridian Street was raised. The first service in the Colonial-Georgian style building was June 29, 1952, with Dr. Logan Hall preaching. In 2002, we celebrated our presence at 5500 North Meridian with a series of 50th Anniversary events.
A large addition, known as the Aldersgate Addition, was begun in 1988 just before the senior pastor, Dr. Richard Lancaster, retired after 25 years at Meridian Street. The addition was to improve the church’s physical facilities, update the building, and add more classroom, office and meeting space.
In 1996, in celebration of our 175th Anniversary, long-time member Daniel F. Evans wrote a comprehensive history of Meridian Street Church. In his book, At Home in Indiana for One Hundred and Seventy-five Years, Mr. Evans wrote: [Our church’s] voice and influence through [its] long history has ebbed and flowed, but there has never been a time when the church now known as Meridian Street United Methodist Church has not been a significant presence in the religious life of Indianapolis. And there has never been a time when its minister and members have not sought to preach and practice that linkage of the heart and head that from John Wesley’s day to our day has been characteristic of Methodism at its best."