The Montague Methodist Church is the oldest Methodist congregation in Muskegon county. It traces its birth to Abner Bennett, an African-American lay preacher, who organized Methodist Sunday School classes at the Mouth of White Lake in the late 1840s. Sanctioned by the Methodist conference in 1853, the original class had nine members.
From his farm near the Old Channel of White Lake, Bennett was an itinerant minister who spread the gospel throughout the pioneer settlements of western Michigan and created the White River Circuit, in 1855, which included small congregations from as far north as Little Point Sable, as far south as Muskegon, and possibly as far east as Newaygo.
For the first dozen years or so the center of the White River Circuit remained at the Mouth. The first ordained minister was the Rev. Lorin M. Bennett (no relation to Abner) who built the first parsonage at the Mouth in 1855. After the Civil War, population shifted to the twin villages of Montague and Whitehall at the head of White Lake. Whitehall became the new center of the circuit, which included preaching locations in Montague and several other places further north.
In 1880, Whitehall became a one-point charge and the head of the circuit was transferred to Montague, with Claybanks being a secondary preaching location. The Montague-Claybanks circuit continued as a two-point charge until 1926 when an overall decrease in membership and difficult economic times prompted the West Michigan Conference to return the Whitehall church to the circuit, with Montague as the principal church.
Over the years the Montague congregation has worshiped in four different buildings. The congregation originally worshiped in the parsonage at the mouth of White Lake. The second structure was a two-story wooden church built at the corner of Church and Meade streets in Montague, where the Montague Museum is now located. After that church burned down in 1898, the congregation built a brick structure on the same location. When the congregation outgrew that building in the early 1960s, they built a modern-looking new church at the corner of Cook and Hancock streets, where services have been held since the building’s first service in 1969. The hexagon shaped sanctuary has a beautiful high-sweeping roof, described by some as a graceful bird in flight and by others as a ski ramp. The sanctuary was designed to seat between 300 and 350 people. The original educational wing contained offices for church personnel, a kitchen, seven class rooms, two bathrooms, a choir room, and a multi-purpose room. It is connected to the sanctuary by a narthex. A building program in 1988 added four more classrooms, additional bathrooms, and a small kitchen for the youth program.
Throughout its long history, the congregation was been served by 55 ministers. Our current minister, appointed in 2017, is the Rev. Mike Riegler.
On July 1, 2017, Montague Untied Methodist Church merged with the Whitehall Methodist Church and became the United Methodist Church of Montague. Sunday worship services are held at the Montague campus of the church. The Whitehall site is owned by the merged church whose Administrative Board will be exploring options for use of its Whitehall facility in the months to come.