The History of First UMC
Within thirty years of John Wesley's preaching, Methodism arrived here. In 1817 The Rev. Ira Eddy, riding circuit, came to this area and preached a revival on the banks of the Allegheny below Warren, at what is now Starbrick. An active class, starting with the Meads and the Reeses, lived, prayed and worked there until 1933, when the class of seventy decided to move to Warren and built next to the central school. This church, the first brick building in Warren, was located where now [c. 1977] is the parking lot next to the Boro building. In 1836 the church was incorporated as the First Methodist Church at Warren Station, and the charter solemnly stated that male members over the age of 21 years had the voice.
For fifty years Methodism in Warren was active and growing, to the end that in 1885 a new church, at the same location, was built. This church served the congregation until 1927, when our present church was built at Second and Market Streets, and the old church was sold to the Evangelicals of Warren.
Some of us remember the old church. The sanctuary was on the second floor, with a balcony sweeping around to the chancel on either side. The architecture, distinguished in its day, was a theatrically Victorian Gothic, with opera seats instead of pews, and with its centered pulpit raised from the communion table in front and the choir and organ furnishing a backdrop to all. When a large Sunday School addition was built in 1912 at the rear of the church, there was a complete and active plant for First Church.
Within a few years of the building of the old church, the membership was so large, and Warren's East Side so developed, that many of the members across the Creek organized a class, and in 1893 organized Grace Methodist Church with 104 members, leaving behind a membership of 770 at First Church.
It is said that in the early 1920's, the Official Board was faced with the problem of either rebuilding or replacing the old church organ. At a meeting, Jerry Crary voiced the opinion that a new organ in an old church was hardly appropriate; and he announced that the L.F. Watson homestead at the corner of Second and Market Streets was committed to him on behalf of the Church. With a new property available, the Board promptly took action toward the building of a new church.
Charles W. Bolton & Son of Philadelphia, was engaged as Architect.
In 1925 plans for the new church were presented, and approved. Avoiding the Victorian, the Romanesque, and the then modern design, the architect offered a pure 13th century Gothic church, with a chapel of the 15th century period added. Nothing so engenders an atmosphere of worship in a community as this traditional architecture, and we have the Building Committee of 1925 to thank for its choice. It would have pleased John Wesley to know that his Methodists in Warren returned to the church beauty in which he was reared, and carried the spiritual enthusiasm which he had to preach in the open fields. The only sad note in the church design was for some of the faithful who were profoundly unhappy at moving the preacher from a front and center pulpit to a side pulpit and a side lectern. But they later came to worship and looked aside to the preacher without loss of devotion.
As is fitting in a Gothic church, our sanctuary is filled with religious art. The sanctuary window is of Christ, the west window is of Moses and the Old Testament; the magnificent transept window is of the Apostles; the rose window over the chapel entrance is of the Lamb of God. And the aisle windows portray Christ's miracles and his parables.
The lovely south window in the chapel honors the Virgin Mary, and the side windows depict the great founders of the Church -- Tyndale, Luther, Wesley and Asbury.
The windows in the chapel corridor and through the church school carry Biblical mottoes; and particularly is attention called to the window just inside the chapel entrance which notes, as one enters the church, that "I will lay me down in peace, and sleep."
Particularly appealing is the statue of Jesus over the entrance, welcoming his believers into worship.
Our fathers built better than they realized. For fifty years (now 79 years) our house of worship has been a center of devotion and of Christian service in the community and through the world.
The building was dedicated at the Easter service in 1927 by our Bishop, Francis J. McConnell. Its twenty-fifty year was celebrated by our Bishop, Lloyd C. Wicke. It's fiftieth year, at its Palm Sunday service on April 3, 1977, will be [was] celebrated by a re-consecration to the Faith, by Bishop Roy C. Nichols.
[Note: In 2002 we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the church with Bishop Hae Jong Kim and district superintendent Robert Higginbotham.]
But what has happened, and what has come from Our Church in this half century?
In the first place, and of less importance than the Service which has marked our congregation, is the maintenance of the physical plant. Our original heating plant was fired with oil, as a buried tank car to the north of the church testified. Later, coal was used, with an under-floor stoker from the coal room under the rear courtyard. Since then, gas has been used and the janitor relieved to perform his proper functions.
After twenty years, it was found that the stone walls of the church had been shoddily pointed, and the whole church was re-mortared. The cast stone trim of the church would not stand the weathering, and in spite of repeated coating of paraffin paint, continued to deteriorate, until in 1976 all of the coping had to be covered with lead-clad cooper flashing, and the rest of the cast stone recovered.
The electrical wiring was completely replaced, so that our present lighting could be safely used.
The entire heating control system has been rebuilt, to the end that the congregation and the Church School classes may be comfortable, and the Church offering be not entirely devoted to the comfort of our people; it being remembered that a Church is an institution to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.
Our beautiful stained glass windows have been protected by Lexan sheeting, which will also effect a heat savings on the church. [Of course, experts often change their mind--there are now plate glass protective panes...]
Particularly should we note that in 1948 a World War II Memorial Altar was dedicated in the Chapel by our own Rev. Stephen T. Crary, in which is listed the honored names of those who served their country. This altar was designed by Marion Sanford, lately of Warren, who has gained fame in the art of sculpture.
This church is but a building. Where have we served The Church, and who have served us? From our church have gone as ministers Bruce A. S. Wright, Morgan P. Noyes, Adolph P. Weaver, Stephen T. Crary, Frank C. Marlett, Jack MacDonald, Johan Stohl and Keith Rieder. From our church have gone as missionaries Anna Samuelson Schreiber to Angola, Pearl Lund to Korea, Dorcas Hall to India, Martha McConnell, Jennie Smith and Pauline Pittman. From our church have gone in Christian social work Helen Noyes, Ethel M. Olson, Margaret Niederlander Hulslander, Charles R. Eaton. These have justified our church in their faith.
For these fifty years we have been served and ministered by:
Charles T. Greer............................1923-1932
Clarence E. Allen...........................1932-1936
Paul Selz, Asst. 1932-1936
W. E. Bartlett..............................1936-1938
Thomas E. Colley............................1938-1943
L.G. Wayne Furman...........................1943-1950
Arthur B. R. Colley.........................1950-1956
A. Culmer Schultz...........................1956-1962
James G. Cousins............................1962-1968
Sherman Epler, Asst. 1962-1968
Adolph P. Weaver............................1968-1970
Elmer H. Reamer, Asst. 1968-1970
Jack E. Spencer.............................1970-1977
David L. Morse, Asst. 1971-1973
Glen Irvin, Asst. 1973-1975
James W. Kramer, Asst. 1975-1977
Harold Ray Kelly...........................1977-1980
Delbert E. Jolley Associate 1978-1992
Donald Everett Bloomster...................1980-1985
Harry Donald Lash..........................1985-1989
James Paul Ciampa..........................1989-1995
Peter Illyan Elencovf 1993-1994
Kenneth Anderson McGowan, Jr...............1995-1998
William John Starr.........................1998-2009
William Rue Beatty Associate 2002--2008
Jeffrey D. Sterling........................2009- 2014
Mark E. Hecht .............................. 2014 - Present
Jon M. Swart, Parish Assoc. 2014 - 2017
First United Methodist Church has always been recognized for not only its structure, but its outreach and service. World Service, Conference agencies and the support of missionaries has been at the heart of our financial program. Christian outreach to the community has been the pattern of our organization and membership.
In recent years our church has been instrumental in the organization and provision of services for persons of special need carrying financial and leadership responsibilities for the Zodiac Coffee House -- a ministry to Edinboro Off Campus Students, Community Concern House -- a residence for released patients of the State Hospital, Street Ministry to Youth through Churches United in Ministry, the establishment of the Warren County Jail Advisory Committee. We are strongly ecumenical in spirit and share fully in providing resources, leadership and facilities for the programming of the Warren County Ministerial Association.
Persons enter our church, worship, study, learn and enjoy fellowship, they depart from the building having felt the presence of God and being equipped for service in the world.
Our history has been a beacon to the future. We are a people called by God to serve Him and our neighbors around the world. The ministry and services our church will render will continue the endless line of splendor which began within thirty years of John Wesley's preaching. What a privilege to be part of this movement of God in History.
[In recent years, an elevator has been installed to give more equal access to those less able to climb stairs. We continue to be a church that reaches out into the community including support of Family Services, The Sharing Place, the Caring Place, Safe House, Jail Ministry, Habitat for Humanity, Healthy Communities Healthy Youth, Crary Home. We have made numerous improvements to the physical plant including weatherizing the exterior, a renovation and expansion of the organ, repainting the walls and re-tiling the floors in the sanctuary. The sound system in the sanctuary has been upgraded and a new sound system was installed in Founders Hall. We continue a tape ministry and are expanding our web ministry...]
From the Official Church Records of the Western PA Conference of the UMC
History: Methodist Episcopal - Erie Conference. The original Erie Circuit included portions of Warren County as early as 1806, Reverend Robert Richford Roberts having preached in Warren that year. In 1812 Reverend Jacob Young, Presiding Elder of the Ohio District, held a Quarterly Meeting on the Conewango, a short distance above the village of Warren. Bishop McKendree was present at this meeting. In 1817 Reverend Ira Eddy organized a Methodist Class on the banks of the Allegheny two or three miles below Warren. In 1830 Reverend James Gillmore was appointed to the Youngsville Circuit and found the small Class still worshipping below the village. An extensive revival that year increased the Class to about seventy members, and the meeting place was transferred to a Schoolhouse in the town. The Reverend Elkannah P. Steadman led in the building of the first Church on Third Avenue, a brick building, in 1833. In 1836 it became a Station appointment and was chartered. This Church was replaced by a larger structure on the same site, which was dedicated on September 19, 1886. In 1910 a Sunday school center was added. In 1927 under the leadership of Reverend Charles T. Greer, the congregation built and occupied the Gothic Church building, which includes a sanctuary, chapel and educational unit. The membership in 1968 was 951. The membership on January 1, 2003 was 609.