In 1963, Brother Syd Finley made an informal appeal to Bishop Joseph Gomez, the then presiding prelate, to establish an African Methodist Episcopal Church in DuPage County. His daughter was getting married and there was no AME Church to host the wedding in the county. It was not until some years later, under the leadership of Bishop Hubert Nelson Robinson that a formal plea was made before the Chicago Annual Conference of the AME Church. On Wednesday, September 12, 1979, Syd and Mary Lou Finley and community leader Ernest Gibson, made a plea and had a private meeting with Bishop Robinson where an organizational and financial support process for a church was established. On Sunday, September 16, 1979, at the closing of the Chicago Annual Conference, Bishop Robinson appointed Reverend Donald Harwell to organize the mission church.
Almost immediately, the first organizational meeting was held September 20, 1979. In attendance from the AME Church Conference were the Reverends Emmanuel Leak, Charles Spivey, and Wilfred Reid who were instrumental in the planning process.
The first church service was held on September 30, 1979 at the Holiday Inn in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Subsequently, the congregation moved to the Park Boulevard Farmhouse at the College of DuPage. The site selection committee, led by Ernest Gibson was formed to find a permanent worship location. In October 1979, the congregation temporarily relocated to the Church of God on Park Boulevard in Glen Ellyn until December 6, 1981. A small but dedicated group from the community, led by Syd Finley, drove to Chicago to meet with the AME Missions Committee to make a plea for the financial support needed to begin building a foundation for the new church. It was a long and arduous meeting, but the small group persisted in securing the seed monies needed for the congregation to purchase the old Second Baptist Church building at 412 Crescent Street in Wheaton. The Crescent Street location provided a permanent home for the membership of nearly 50. Created as an AME Mission in 1979, DuPage AME Church was chartered by the State of Illinois and authorized by the AME Conference as a full church in December 1981, two years after the meeting with Bishop Robinson.
Blessed with continued progress and growth, the Trustee board set out to pay off the Church mortgage and in December 1987, the existing mortgage was paid in full. At this point the Steward and Finance Commission was formed. A Mortgage Retiring Banquet and Concert was held at the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook a year later in December 1988. The Lord continued to bless and the membership grew to about 200.
On October 4, 1989 Bishop J. Haskell Mayo appointed the Reverend James F. Miller pastor of DuPage AME Church. His mandate was to “go and build a church”. There were many things to do in preparation for this endeavor however. DuPage AME Church now had full time Pastor. A working office was needed. Pastor Miller converted a small room behind the pulpit into his office.
Within the two year period after his appointment to the church, a parsonage was purchased in Wheaton (January 17, 1990) and the parish house was purchased (January 9, 1991). An administrative office was established in the parish house and the church hired a part time secretary. In a 1992 church newsletter, the Pastor’s paragraphs reads:
”In the coming weeks you will begin to hear more about the vision God is giving me for our church family. I must be honest, it is a very ominous and foreboding vision. It is a vision pregnant with possibilities, but it will require of us more faith than we have ever been challenged to exhibit before. Quite frankly, I do not know if we are up to the task that we are now challenged to undertake; the purchase of land, the sale of our current property, the completion of plans for the new project, the inclusion an appropriation of new souls which God is sending us, the financial sacrifices which we must commit to; and to do all of this, weather every storm, conquer every mountain, with the love of Christ for our church and for each other. To do all with love, a love that can only be found in the precious church, which is referred to in heaven and earth as the bride of Christ!” This is a big order. And, even as the challenge presents itself I hear the words of Jesus written in Matthew 19:26, “with man it is impossible, but not with God, for with God, all things are possible!”
As the church grew, the congregation began to mobilize around the vision of the Pastor. On November 30, 1992, 1.6 acres of land located on Yackley Avenue in Lisle, Illinois, became the site for a new church. The membership had grown to approximately 600. In January of 1995, the church at 412 Crescent Street was sold and the congregation returned to the Holiday Inn in Glen Ellyn for services. The church office was also relocated there. With much prayer and faith, on August 28, 1995 construction began on the new church home. This was the first time, in DuPage County, that an African American body has secured a bank mortgage in excess of one million dollars. One year later, on August 25, 1996, the first service was held in the new church at 4300 Yackley Avenue in Lisle, Illinois. As the presiding prelate, Bishop Robert Thomas Jr. led the dedication ceremony that was held in November 1996: membership had now grown to approximately 800.
Yackley Avenue Inaugural Service
(Click on images to enlarge)
DuPage AME Church had grown and evolved from the small group that had petitioned the Chicago Conference, to a membership of approximately 800 souls that the Lord continued to bless. With the Lord’s blessing, the church continued to develop and increase in members. Almost immediately, the new building was too small. On the first Sunday, June, 1997, the church started a second service. Under the pastoral leadership and direction of Reverend Miller, DuPage AME Church was becoming known throughout the community as the largest African American church in the county and an AME Church “connectional” church, receiving noted recognition for growth and evangelism. By 2002, DuPage AME Church was the largest congregation in the North District of the Chicago Conference and among the top 25 churches in the AME Church connectional.
In April of 1998 DuPage AME Church was asked to host the 4th Episcopal District Mid-Year Meeting. This was the first Episcopal district meeting DuPage AME Church sponsored. Churches from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario and Quebec, and other Canadian provinces attended. Subsequent to this conference, the church hosted the AME Christian Education Department’s annual connectional meeting. The church was 19 years old. In 2001 Bishop Philip R. Cousin appointed Pastor, James F. Miller to the position of 4th District Christian Education Director. Along with this appointment came the honor of organizing the conference for all the ministries within Christian Education at an annual Congress. In October of 2002 the 120th Session of the Chicago Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was hosted by DuPage AME Church in Lisle, Illinois. Over 88 churches and congregations from the Chicagoland area were in attendance for the week. DuPage, the young 23 year old church rose to the call.
Balcony seating and classrooms on the upper level were completed in April 2001, providing approximately 100 additional seats, two small meeting rooms, and a large conference room. Needing more parking, the church purchased a 1/2-acre lot across the street from the main building, which was developed and dedicated to providing additional parking in June 2001.
As the membership continued growing at a rapid pace, the need for additional space has became crucial. With the Pastor’s leading, Trustees canvassed the area surrounding the church with the hopes of acquiring additional property. Unable to purchase properties adjacent to the church, Reverend Miller made a plea to several property owners near by. Three homeowners agreed to sell their property. In April of 2004 the church purchased 3 buildings on 5 acres of land, which now provides needed space for classrooms, meeting rooms, Vacation Bible School, day camp, and an area for festivities and fellowship. Presently the membership exceeds 2000 and the Lord is continuing to smile on us as we ‘work out our salvation together’.
In the last 25 years of ‘Caring and Sharing’ in the DuPage County community, DuPage AME Church has distinguished itself as a place where people can find a warm and welcoming environment, positive role models, outstanding leadership, enthusiastic worship, and engaged youth.
The DuPage AME Church family has been a place of positive role models for young and old. Having a vibrant African-American church community, composed of positive Black men, women, and families has been central for many who come. In the western suburbs of Chicago, such a community is rare and distinct from the environments that most congregants find themselves immersed in during the week. African-Americans make up one of the smaller minority populations in the county. Younger children have older adolescents setting up positive examples before them. Most youth ministries of the church ensure that their programs take advantage of the church environment, which allows greater access and fellowship for everyone.
Many members remark about looking to more mature families that exhibit longevity for inspiration. Younger couples have found other couples to fellowship with regularly and their families have grown up together.
Although the church has members providing excellent civic leadership in the community, DuPage AME Church is known as a church with outstanding pastoral leadership, which is both inclusive and empowering. The Ministerial Staff is humble, compassionate, gentle, and giving. DuPage AME Church is a place of enthusiastic and participatory worship. The worship experience is uplifting and one of praise. The choirs sing good music: the Praise Team, all adult, youth, and children’s choirs. The sound teaching of The Word on Sunday mornings, Wednesday Night Bible Study, Sunday Church School, and Vacation Bible School each make significant contributions to the body of Christ here at DuPage. A faithful member recalls their fondest memory involves a Sunday service when she was singing in the Voices of Praise Choir.:
“We sang the song, ‘Call Him Up’. The first time we sang it, it just felt like the congregation was set on fire, everybody got out of their seats and we were praising and worshipping God together. Even the aisles, you couldn’t get past; it was like a revival during Sunday service. It was amazing! It felt like angels were up there singing with us and they were floating around the church. That was the most unbelievable moment in the church for me. The spirit of God was definitely there”.
DuPage has been a place for youth development. It is a church dedicated to loving and nurturing its young and encouraging their total participation in the life of the church and broader community. An example of this is the Christian Education Sleepovers that Rev. Lana started. Many members fondly remember their involvement and the fantastic learning experiences that radically influenced the lives of many children who are now adolescents and adults heavily involved in the church. Parents want to see their children put themselves wholeheartedly into activities such as singing, missionary work, dancing, scouting, and ushering. All of this goes on at DuPage AME Church. Our pastor has been a leader in involving others in the work and being open to try new and innovative things to the glory of the Lord. We have all benefited.
Members look to the future with the Lord leading. We pray for continued spiritual growth as a faith community through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and community service. As we celebrate 25 years, and what that means in terms of our struggles and victories, ours is a congregation that greatly anticipates that because of our faith and wise stewardship, and because of God’s grace, He will continue to trust us with more of His work to do.
4300 Yackley Avenue
Lisle, IL 60532