The result of two congregations coming together, Chapel Heights United Methodist Church is about to celebrate 50 years.
“We’re exited about our anniversary,” said 87-year-old Marcella Pohl, who was there at the beginning.
“I keep telling them it’s actually 60 years,” she said, chuckling. “Of course, that’s just one of the times they wish my mouth wasn’t working.”
Kidding aside, Pohl and the rest of the congregation hope their community friends come and celebrate with them on Sunday, Sept. 9.
Twelve couples and 50 children from Lake Street Methodist Church started meeting in 1959 in a temporary building in the Putnam Heights area at Hamilton Avenue and Patton Street, according to a history compiled by church members.
“We used to refer to it as ‘our chicken coop,’” said Pohl, chuckling at the memory of the A-frame building.
Pohl and her husband, Jack, were among the 12 couples.
“We came to start a new church,” she recalled. “We felt with the population growth another church was needed.”
The new church was called Aldersgate Methodist. In 1966, the congregation, along with the congregation of Olivet Evangelical United Brethren Church, which was located at Babcock and Beach streets, voted to come together, according to a 1968 article in The Daily Telegram. On April 23, 1967, ground was broken at Hamilton and Patton for a new church — Chapel Heights Methodist.
The EUB church dated back to 1878, and the Olivet building at Babcock and Beach was built in 1923, according to The Daily Telegram.
Luther Hospital, now Mayo Clinic Health System, purchased the former Olivet church building and two adjacent lots in 1967, according to an article from July that year.
Dedication services were planned for May 12, 1968, in the new $350,000 Chapel Heights United Methodist Church, according to a March 1968 article in The Daily Telegram.
“The new octagonal sanctuary, offices, foyer, lounge and 12 classrooms (were) added to a one-story educational unit previously built by the Aldersgate congregation.”
Also in 1968, at a uniting conference, the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church took place. As a result, the United Methodist Church also is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
According to the Chapel Heights history shared by members:
“At times, food seems to be the common denominator at Methodist events. Currently, Chapel Heights hosts an ice cream social, a bazaar (first one held in 1960). We are known for our delicious fruitcakes sold at the bazaar.”
Pohl has been in charge of the fruitcakes for about the last decade. This year, she has helped order supplies, but she has stepped back a bit.
“We do get a lot of compliments,” said Pohl, who has helped make the hundreds of fruitcakes sold each year. “They sell pretty well.”
Chapel Heights also offers a traditional Thanksgiving feast for UW-Eau Claire intern students and houses a food pantry.
For more than 30 years, Chapel Heights has been home to a preschool, and more recently, a 4K program meets in the church. In addition, a Korean mission church meets on Sundays at Chapel Heights.
Since its formation, Chapel Heights has been the site of countless baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals, including Jack Pohl’s.
“The church has been a large part of our lives,” Marcella Pohl said.
Robert Schaaf was a member of the former Olivet church when its congregation came together with the members of Aldersgate to form Chapel Heights.
Like Pohl, he has been involved in the church and has taught Sunday school in the past and has been an usher for 50 years.
“If you got to church early, you were an usher,” Schaaf said, laughing. “I was there continually, so … .”
Even though they left their former church, Schaaf said he and his family like Chapel Heights.
“We’re satisfied with the ministry and the building,” he said.
Pohl feels the same way.
“I call it my church,” she said. “It’s home to me.”
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