History of WFMC
In the beginning of 1945, there were only two Free Methodist families in Wilmore, KY; Rev. and Mrs. L. O. Florence and Asbury College professor, Dr. Cecil Hamann and his wife. In August of that year Dr. George Turner, a new professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, and his family arrived, as well as Rev. G. Herbert Livingston, a new student at the seminary, and his family. This small group met on Wednesday evenings for Bible study and prayer.
During that same year, the Free Methodist Bishops were raising money to start a John Wesley Theological Seminary. They failed to raise enough money and wondered what to do. After much prayer, Dr. Turner suggested that the denomination negotiate with Asbury Seminary an agreement to have Free Methodist students obtain their training at Asbury. The resulting affiliation was called the John Wesley Seminary Foundation. At the same time Dr. Turner formed the wives of professors and students into a Free Methodist Society.
In the summer of 1947, Dr. Curry Mavis was hired by the seminary as Professor of Pastoral Care. He also served as the Dean of the students sponsored by the John Wesley Seminary Foundation and as Pastor of the Free Methodist Society. A room was rented from the seminary in which a Sunday evening service was held at 6 p.m.
In 1960, construction began on a brick faced building at the corner of North Lexington Ave and Gillespie St. The building was completed in the late summer of 1961 and dedicated as the John Wesley Seminary Foundation building for Free Methodist students and staff of the Asbury institutions. A new leader, Rev. Clyde Van Valin, was appointed to the group.
On April 15, 1975, the foundation gathering incorporated into the Wilmore Free Methodist Church, or “society,” in the truest sense of the Wesleyan term. The congregation rejoiced as 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. services were begun, as well as a Sunday School.
On Wednesday evenings, there was a prayer meeting, as well as a children’s gathering called Christian Youth Crusaders (CYC). This children’s group grew to about 90 attendants led by Mrs. Maria Livingston and her helpers.
A teenage group was formed that grew as new families from the institutions and community joined the church. Other organizations brought together adults of various ages. Over the next thirty years, under the leadership of Clyde Van Valin, Gary Walsh and Art Brown, the congregation grew and more space was needed for expansion. In the early 90’s plans were begun to find another location in or near Wilmore for a new sanctuary. Asbury Seminary agreed to buy the church building.
God answered prayer by making a purchase of eight acres on the north edge of Wilmore a reality. During the greater part of 1994-1996, the land was cleared of trees and brush and a substantial sanctuary was built. After his retirement as Bishop, Clyde Van Valin served as pastor for several years. He was followed by Dr. Dean Cook, who presided over the dedication of the new building in 1996.
Almost immediately, the congregation began to grow. Within a few years it was apparent another building was needed. Plans for a new structure, labeled as a Christian Ministry Center, were made into blueprints and a combination of classrooms, a kitchen and a large assembly hall became reality in 2001. It quickly proved to be a blessing to the congregation.
In 2004, Pastor Cook retired and assistant pastor, Dr. Daryl Diddle, was assigned by the New South Conference to serve as the Senior Pastor.
In the mid-2000’s, two contiguous plots of land totaling 11 acres were purchased, enlarging the campus to a total of 21 acres. After retiring all debt in 2006 and still lacking space for ministry growth, plans were adopted in 2008 for a significant new discipleship building and a renovation of the sanctuary facility. Between 2009 and 2013, over 2.3 million dollars was raised and construction was begun in spring of 2014 on the 10,000 square foot facility and renovation, all the while giving far more to home and world missions and local benevolence than ever before. The new and renovated facility was dedicated in the spring of 2017.
In 2013, WFMC also entered into a three year mothering / re-plant of the Calvary Free Methodist Church in Lexington, which continues to grow under the leadership of Rev. Andy Bentz.
Pastor Daryl currently leads a staff of ten. Over 1200 people from all over central Kentucky call WFMC their church home. In two morning worship services, the attendance averages 650, nearly half that return to close the Lord’s Day in worship on Sunday evenings, and about 300 participate in Wednesday evening activities for children, teens and adults. A number of musical groups, ranging from children to adults, bless the worship services. Other group ministries involve a large percentage of the congregation.
A few years ago a national study of Protestant churches in the US, placed the Wilmore Free Methodist Church among three hundred highly effective churches.