For some, knowing where we have been is as important as knowing where we are going. For others, a sense of knowing what we are doing now and doing that well is most important.
Where we find ourselves is part of our ongoing story.
When you enter the building from the north you will notice a cornerstone with three dates: 1845, 1958, and 1999. Known then as The Methodist Episcopal Church of Warren, this congregation was first organized on November 26, 1845. Once they outgrew meeting in homes, they gathered for worship in a log schoolhouse on the southeast corner of Chicago and Ryan Roads, alternating Sundays with the Baptists.
A log chapel was built in 1852 at the cemetery site on Chicago Road to accommodate the growing congregation. In five years they needed to expand again and built a larger frame building. Wanting to be more centrally located, the frame building was moved to Fillmore and 7th Streets, where it still stands, now home to a Baptist congregation. In 1887 they obtained their first parsonage and worship attendance reached 50. In 1921, the Union Thanksgiving Services were started with St. Paul Church on Mound, another congregation in the “Village.”
Building upgrades in 1937 included water and sewer service. A basement addition in 1944 created a new kitchen space, two bathrooms, a Sunday school room that as a social hall, and a water heater was installed!
By 1953, the congregation began talk of a new building again. In 1957, the property on Chicago Road was purchased. As the area grew with the General Motors Tech Center and other developments, the little church was filled to capacity and beyond each Sunday. On October 26, 1958, the last regular service was held in the little church on 7th Street. The current location at 5005 Chicago Road was consecrated on December 7, 1958.
The sanctuary design represents a tabernacle, or tent, signifying the faith journey of God’s people, always on the move with God. Although churches typically have a steeple or spire placed over the altar and the priest, we have a high roof line over the entire congregation which serves as one continuous steeple over all who worship here. This signifies the Protestant understanding of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2). The clear window walls completely surrounding the sanctuary remind us that Christian faith must continuously reach out to others. It cannot be self-contained and continue to exist. While proud of our history, our focus is on the present and future, being faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Plans for the program center, with the education rooms downstairs and a fellowship hall and kitchen upstairs, began in 1962. By 1966, the membership peaked at over 1400 members. That same year the new program wing was consecrated.
In 1968, the Methodist Episcopal Church merged with The United Brethren Church, creating a new denomination, The United Methodist Church. The Methodist Episcopal Church of Warren became First United Methodist Church of Warren.
In 1999, Warren First completed a large renovation project, updating the office spaces as well as many of the furnishings. Much of the building is completely handicap-accessible and flexible, allowing us to host retreats and house guests of a local rotating shelter, serving those transitioning out of homelessness.
The facilities are used by local groups and agencies serving Narcotics Anonymous, a local choral group, several square dance groups, a quilt-making group, yoga, Zumba, and our own ministry and mission groups. This is a busy place!
Today, the First United Methodist Church of Warren continues the legacy of those who gathered together in homes to grow in faith. Our ministries over the years have included a corn booth at the fair, and extensive music program, sending youth to service projects in Appalachia, supporting mission personnel and local support agencies, as well as sending men and women into full-time service as both lay and ordained ministers.
Our devotion to growing in faith and living into the mission of Jesus Christ continues as we gather to worship God, study the Scriptures, and listen to the Holy Spirit guide us in loving and serving our neighbors, right next door and around the world.