Historic Snapshots of First Methodist Houston

1835

Colonel William Barrett Travis, a year before falling in defense of the Alamo, writes the General Conference of the Methodist Church meeting on the east coast requesting Methodist pastors for the new Republic being born in Texas.  The Methodist Church responds by assigning three missionaries to this new area.

1839

Reverend Jesse Hord organizes Houston’s first Methodist Church in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol Building of the Republic, located at that time in Houston.

1843

At the December 13 Conference of Texas Methodists, it is reported that the Houston congregation consists of 36 white members and 32 black members.

1844

The first Methodist church building in Houston, also the first brick church in Texas, is completed.

1854

Reverend James Ferguson becomes our pastor.  Ferguson is also remembered as the father of Jim Ferguson, who later became Governor of Texas, and the father-in-law of Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who was Texas’ first woman Governor.

1864

A wall of the church’s original brick building collapses during a storm just minutes after Sunday services.  The congregation meets in the black members’ building on a nearby lot and at the Lutheran church until after the Civil War.

1867

A yellow fever epidemic kills more than 1,000 Houstonians, including our pastor, Reverend William Rees.

1883

On December 9, we begin worship in our new church building.  It is an English gothic brick church called Shearn Memorial.  The church property is located at Travis and Texas Avenue, at the present location of the Houston Chronicle.

1900

In September, a disastrous hurricane devastates Galveston, requiring the church to minister in dramatic ways to the survivors, followed by extensive support of the work to rebuild Galveston and much of Houston.  Shearn church itself is severely damaged.

1901

The automobile arrives on Houston streets, creating a future need in church ministries as the city spreads out.

1904

Members of the church form a ministry called Wesley House in the impoverished near northeast area of the city.  It has grown into a city-wide ministry, known as Wesley Community Center.  Wesley is now supported by many churches and ministers to over 50,000 persons in need in Harris County each year.

1907

Our church property at Travis and Texas is sold and the congregation meets in Alabambra Hall and Beach’s Auditorium until late 1910.  Two corner lots at Main and Clay (our present downtown location) are purchased.  One trustee resigns, convinced that the property is “too far out of town.”

1908

We use printed bulletins in worship for the first time.

1909

We change our name from Charles Shearn Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, South to First Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

1910

Construction is completed on the new (and current) downtown sanctuary.  The first worship service is held on December 18, 1910.  Membership totals 1,200.

1919

Members of the church help start Methodist Hospital, and over the years since have been deeply involved in its leadership and growth

1923

The Blue Bird Circle, organized for special social service work, included in their ministry volunteerism in the Crippled Children’s Ward at Methodist Hospital.  This service of the Blue Bird Circle eventually became a separate charitable entity with its focus on volunteer work at Methodist Hospital.

1924

Our first live worship broadcast on radio.

1928

Construction begins on the seven story educational building.  It is designed so that it can be turned into an office building, should such prove to be necessary or desirable.

1930

The music ministry for children and adults begins and becomes a highlight of many worship services and special events.

1931

The first edition of the First Methodist Houston Times is published.

1939

Following the unification of the three major branches of Methodism, the North and South Episcopal terms were dropped and we became First Methodist Church.

1940

First Methodist expands to two Sunday services.

1945

Not only did the Church rejoice at the return of service personnel from WWII but also celebrated the removal of its 16-year debt that resulted from the building of the Education Building and the struggles incurred during he previous decade of The Depression years.

1951

The sanctuary is remodeled to accommodate air conditioning.

1956

We broadcast our worship on television for the first time. Today, our Sunday morning televised worship is the longest running television program in the nation with a viewing audience each week of over 60,000 homes,–now including live streaming.

1959

The Quillian Recreation Center, named after Rev. Paul Quillian, is opened in the Alief area for ministry to the church and community.  It is relocated to the Westchase campus in the 1990’s in order to bring together its sports ministry and the new congregation being formed to better serve the western part of the city.

1960

The first July Revival services were held with great congregational singing and inspiring messages from the pulpit.  This began a tradition that continues into the present time.

1963

Members of the church help begin Clarewood House retirement community.  In addition, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) opens in Houston.  Since then, a number of our volunteers in First Choice Media Ministry have been communications and electronics staff from NASA.

1966

An Aeolian Skinner organ, made by one of the finest organ companies in the United States, is installed as a welcome addition to the music ministry and worship service.  During the year numerous concerts were held with prestigious organists from all around the country coming to First Methodist as featured artists.

1968

At General Conference the Evangelical United Brethren Church merges with the Methodist Church and we become The First United Methodist Church of Houston.

1970

The church embarks on an ambitious building program that will take several years.  The façade of the south side is enclosed to form a large lobby connecting the sanctuary and education building.  The colorful faceted art glass windows designed by church member Edward L. Reichert depict ministries of the church along with well-known Christian symbols.  Included in the building program is a partial renovation of the education building and the sanctuary.

1973

Construction begins on a chapel adjacent to the main sanctuary to be named in honor of Alice and David C. Bintliff, a gift of their two daughters and their families.

1981

The half block parking lot located southwest of the church, bounded by Travis, Clay, and Bell Streets is sold with the funds becoming the seed monies to help establish The First Methodist Foundation.  The funds of the Foundation are used to maintain church properties and assist with specific endowed programs.

1983

At the Charge Conference it is determined that the long neglected Quillian Memorial Center in Alief will be completely renovated to serve as a recreational center and gathering place for the church family and as an outreach to the people living in West Houston.  On December 27, a fire destroys much of the current sanctuary, chapel, and organ.  The restoration project is completed in 1985.

1985

The church sends its first mission team to Haiti.  This is a catalyst for what will become an active ministry into countries all over the world.

1986

Reflecting the ongoing changes in society, First Methodist is delighted to receive the first appointment of a woman as one of its associate pastors.

1987

The needlepoint altar cushions, upon which thousands will knee in years to come, are lovingly handcrafted by women of the church.  The church receives the gift of a Schulmerich Carillon for the Bell Tower. A major fundraising effort called Hands Helping Houston brings together hundreds of volunteers to raise funds for local charities.  This becomes the genesis for an ongoing “extra” giving to mission outreach.

1989

The church celebrates 150 years of worship and service in the Houston Community.

1991

A gift of 65 acres of land near Hockley is donated to the church for use as a recreational or retreat center, later named the McKaskle Retreat Center.

1992

The Church decides to reach out and start a second campus at Beltway 8 and Westpark, acquiring 27 acres of land to minister to the growing west side of the city.

1993

The Westchase congregation begins holding Sunday services in January at Paul Revere Middle School.  That same year, we acquire two office/warehouse buildings directly across from the original 27 acre parcel to create temporary housing for ministries and worship.

1994

Teams of walkers carry a flame from the altar of the downtown church to the Westchase facility on June 4, to commemorate the first services held at the temporary Westchase worship center.

1995

On February 5, the Stansbury Fellowship Hall is dedicated and ready for service when Wesley Academy opens in fall 1995, serving Pre-K to second grade.

1996

The second permanent facility at the Westchase Campus, the Quillian Recreation Center’s Reibenstein Pavilion, is completed, along with the competitive size pool and Noah’s Ark water feature for children.

1997

Temporary buildings are erected to handle growth of the Wesley Academy and the Westchase congregation. A fundraising drive for the new Worship Center at Westchase is completed in just 28 days.

1998

Members of our church begin Christian Alliance, a ministry for international disaster relief.  First Choice Television is incorporated as a separate entity under the First Methodist umbrella.

1999

On Sunday, June 27, the first worship service, overflowing from the combined congregation, is held in the new 2,200 seat Westchase Worship Center.

2000

Construction is completed on the Wesley Academy two story educational building and the Quillian Center recreational facility.

2004

Our outreach ministry to students and their families in the impoverished neighborhood of Port Houston grows and is incorporated as Neighbors in Action.

2008

The half block bounded by Travis, Polk and Milam is purchased to provide expanded parking for church members downtown and has become known as the King Lot.

2010

The Congregation dedicates a State of Texas Historical Society marker honoring the First United Methodist Church Congregation for its long service to Houston, to Texas, and to the world.  A special two-hour worship service is held to celebrate 100 years of service and worship in the downtown sanctuary at Main and Clay.

2011

Just in time for Christmas, the church pays off the last of its capital debt to the bank.

2012

A community center is created in the Port Houston Area by Neighbors in Action, offering 7-day a week ministry to all ages.

2014

Renovation of the downtown facility continues with the renovation of the entire first floor, creation of a state of the art nursery and restoration of the stained glass windows in the sanctuary.  A Columbarium is added to the downtown prayer garden on Main Street.  In addition, the youth center is renovated on the fifth floor and a new worship space is created for a contemporary worship service on the sixth the floor (The Source).

2015

A new contemporary service (The Vine) is begun at the Westchase Campus in the Stansbury Hall.  In addition, Covenant Glen United Methodist Church is invited to share space on the campus, adding to the growing community impact of the diverse ministries based there.