For nearly 50 years, there has been a building at 312 Lovelace Avenue serving in Christian ministry to the campus of the University of Tennessee at Martin. Even before there was a building, though, Jim and Betty Henson were sharing the Gospel with students. Beginning in 1947, the Hensons, members of Martin-First Methodist, wanted their church to reach out to college students, so they opened up their home for meals and Bible Study. In honor of their many years of loving and pioneering ministry with UTM students, the current student lounge is still named in their honor.
In 1957, as more space was needed to meet the demands of the ministry, the Memphis Annual Conference of the Methodist Church established a formal Wesley Foundation at the current location, with the stated purpose of ministering to students by offering opportunities for spiritual formation through fellowship, worship, study, and service. In carrying out their mission, the leaders of the ministry often sought to work in cooperation with other religious groups on campus. Sometimes, they offered meeting space to such groups, and in fact, before a Catholic church was established in Martin, mass was held regularly at the Wesley Foundation.
In 1973, as part of a national trend toward more ecumenical ministries, the Diocese of Memphis of the Roman Catholic Church and the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church entered into an agreement for a joint ministry to the campus community. Thus, the Wesley Foundation became formally known as the Interfaith Student Center.
In the early 1980s, Trinity Presbyterian (PCUSA) joined the Interfaith family and, more recently, Martin Cumberland Presbyterian, St. James Episcopal and Faith Lutheran all participated at various levels of the ministry.
Presently, the Wesley Foundation is supported in its different ministries by the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church, First UMC of Martin, Trinity Presbyterian (PCUSA), and other local churches.
Over the years, thousands of students from various faith traditions have participated in retreats, mission trips, choirs, programs, meals, and worship services, all under the original vision of Jim and Betty Henson to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the students of the University of Tennessee at Martin, and that is still the vision of the Wesley Foundation today.