Our History

History of Francis Street First UMC
David Lewis presents his Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture

With more than 12 million members worldwide, THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH is the largest of several Christian denominations of Wesleyan heritage, which trace their roots to the ministry of brothers John (1703-1791) and Charles (1707-1788) Wesley.  While studying at Oxford University to be Anglican priests in the Church of England, they formed a “Holy Club” among other students which stressed methodical Bible study and Christian living, for which they became known as “Methodists.”

In 1735, the Wesley brothers came to the American colonies as missionaries to Native Americans in Georgia but returned to England disillusioned and discouraged.  They would never visit the American continent again.

After a transforming religious experience in 1738, the Wesley brothers turned their efforts toward bringing spiritual renewal to the Church of England.  John Wesley sought to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of disadvantaged people and others who had been ignored or abandoned by the church and other institutions of that time.  Proclaiming “the world is my parish,” he preached on street corners, factory floors, and in the fields, and formed Methodist classes for those wishing to live a Christian lifestyle.

The Cross and Flame is a registered trademark and the use is supervised by the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church. Permission to use the Cross and Flame must be obtained from the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church:

(Formally adopted in 1968 as the official insignia of the United Methodist Church the cross and flame identify United Methodist Churches and relates the church to God through Christ (cross) and Holy Spirit (flame). The flame is also a reminder of Pentecost and John Wesley’s transforming moment when he sensed God’s presence and felt his heart “strangely warmed.”)

Charles Wesley was instrumental in spreading Methodist theology through thousands of hymns he wrote in a new style which expressed a personal faith.  Through its General Board of Global Ministries (www.gbgm-umc.org), social outreach continues to be an integral part of the Methodism throughout the world.

(Today, every United Methodist congregation participates in local outreach ministries.  You will find our members living out their faith by volunteering their time through local service groups, social service agencies and the hospital.  Through the Open Door Food Kitchen and InterServ, our congregation carries out a commitment to help feed the hungry in St. Joseph.)

Some Methodists made their way to the American colonies where it became a lay movement, with Methodist classes but no ordained clergy.  Members were instructed to take Sacraments in the Church of England.  The withdrawal of Anglican priests following the Revolutionary War demanded the formation of a denominational structure and the ordination of Methodist ministers which took place in 1784.

Early Methodist preachers were itinerants who were assigned to organize new classes and churches within a territory.  They regularly traveled between these rural “charges” on horseback and became known as “circuit riders.”

A spiritual awakening occurred within American Protestantism in the first half of the nineteenth century, which brought increased emphasis on personal holiness and missionary zeal aimed at evangelizing the American frontier.  Relying on its network of circuit riders, the young Methodist church was to spread its appealing message of free will and grace more effectively than some of the more established denominations, and its numbers grew as Methodist classes, which became societies or churches, were established in almost every town.  By 1850, one in six Americans claimed Methodist affiliation.


Under colonial rule by Spain and France, only Roman Catholics were allowed to own land and practice their faith in what is now Missouri.  These rules were relaxed in 1795 and disappeared when the area became United States territory through the Louisiana Purchase in 1804.  By 1806 two circuits had been organized to serve 106 Methodists living in the Territory of Missouri.  When statehood was granted in 1824, Missouri had a population of 66,000, of which 1,543 were Methodist.

In 1826, Joseph Robidoux, a French fur trapper opened a trading post on the Missouri River at the foot of what is now Jules Street in Indian territory.  The six counties comprising Northwest Missouri were added to the state as the Platte Purchase and opened for settlement in 1836, after which a small town grew around the trading post.  One of the first families to arrive was Simeon and Jane Anne Kemper and their infant daughter.  They came by riverboat from Kentucky by way of Liberty, Missouri in 1839.

Mrs. Kemper was a staunch Methodist and longed to worship with people who shared her faith.

She found John Carter and they found three others which became the nucleus of a Methodist class. 2. Mrs. Jane Anne Kemper3. Mr. John F. CarterThey began meeting above David Heaton’s cabinet shop at Main and Jules streets in 1843, the year in which St. Joseph was incorporated with a population of about 200. Carter held the position of class leader until it became a society or church in 1844. Two years later, the young church constructed the first brick church in St. Joseph on a corner lot at 3rd and Felix streets, donated by Robidoux, who although a Roman Catholic, recognized the value of churches in every town.

One of the unfortunate schisms in Methodism occurred over slavery in 1844. Churches in slaveholding states became part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to which this local church united. Methodists in St. Joseph continued to worship together until 1849, when a local preacher and four other members withdrew and re-organized the Methodist Episcopal Church. That congregation worshipped in several locations until purchasing and refitting a former theatre on Fifth Street, north of Francis. It was known as the Fifth Street or Union Methodist Episcopal Church until adopting the name First Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1890’s. That congregation built a new building on the southeast corner of 8th and Faraon in 1909.

The original church erected a second building on the northwest corner of 7th and Francis streets in 1857. In 1864, it adopted the name “Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church, South.” In 1906, the congregation erected a new building on the southwest corner of 12th & Francis streets. These congregations were responsible for helping organize and finance new Methodist churches in St. Joseph’s outlying neighborhoods.

The membership in both churches declined with the population and economic profile of the central city, and by 1995, the decision was made that one strong church would make better use of resources instead of two. This resulted in a merger creating the Francis Street First United Methodist Church, utilizing the former Francis Street church facility at 12th and Francis streets.


Over two hundred years, some unfortunate fractures developed over slavery and polity, resulting in new denominations. However, in 1939, three of these bodies merged to form “The Methodist Church.” The “United Methodist Church” was formed by a merger with the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968. Today, there are 8 million United Methodists in the United States, making it the second largest Protestant denomination behind the Baptists. The Wesleyan movement claims more than 18 million members in various churches worldwide.
The United Methodist Church is considered part of America’s “mainline” Protestantism. Methodists are united by John Wesley’s original 25 articles of faith contained in the Book of Discipline, which provides the denominational structure. For additional information visit the denomination website at www.umc.org.


1. 1906

Kenneth E. Rowe writes, “Methodism’s centennial era in America (1866-84) coincided with its transformation into a solidly middle-class church. Nothing symbolizes Methodism’s new status and social location better than a network of impressive, even monumental, regional Methodist churches that came to dominate the urban landscape during the last quarter of the 19th century. An earlier generation of Methodists considered elegant churches to be detrimental to spiritual worship. With the rise of middle-class respectability, however, fine church buildings were seen to demonstrate the authority and influence of the Methodists, as well as the wealth and status of its membership.”

By the late 1890’s, it was becoming apparent that the Francis Street Church had outgrown its 1857 Greek revival building at 7th and Francis Streets. During the pastorate of Rev. Wilbur Fisk Packard (1897-1901), planning began for a new building. At that time, national extension societies were the favored method to coordinate and foster church growth.

Our grand solid black walnut pulpit was constructed in 1872 by the Louis Hax Furniture Co. for the building at 7th & Francis (read the recently revisited story here)

According to Rowe, “Methodism shunned classical architecture, whose imitation of pagan temples seemed an inappropriate way to express Christian faith.” Leading church architects used extension society periodicals to circulate their ideas on modern church architecture, which followed commercial architecture through the use of natural materials like stone to imitate ancient Medieval styles, such as Romanesque and Gothic.

The design of these new churches reflected the broader social concerns of the day and the increasing role of the church in family life. Like domestic architecture, space was allocated for specific uses, such as Sunday School, which had been in the basement lecture hall or scattered throughout the auditorium, as well as church offices, libraries, kitchens, dining rooms, parlors and rooms to host meetings of the women’s missionary society, men’s brotherhood and youth fellowship.

In Methodist circles, New York City architect, George W. Kramer (1847-1938), 3. George Washington Kramerwas a prominent proponent of the “combination church,” which joined an Akron Plan Sunday School to an auditorium style worship space with seating radiating from a pulpit located in the corner on a diagonal axis. The Akron Plan Sunday School was designed to accommodate the Uniform Lesson Plan. Officially adopted by the Methodist Church in 1872, it featured a combined opening session in a central rotunda, followed by a graded class period in perimeter spaces on one or two levels.
Jacob Snyder’s pioneering 1866 design for the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Akron, Ohio, called for separate buildings, while other architects placed the rooms side by side, but with no means of joining them. Kramer thought that by joining the Sunday School and worship spaces, one activity would flow to the other, and the two spaces could serve as overflow seating for each other. It was an early attempt to make church buildings multi-purpose.

George Kramer's Akron Plan
George Kramer’s book offered a variety of Combination Church designs for congregations to consider.

By the 1890’s the Akron Plan had become the standard for all medium or larger Methodist churches. In 1897, Kramer authored a best-selling book, “The What, How and Why of Church Building.” One source gives Kramer credit for perfecting the idea, while another credits him for designing 2,900 churches and schools. During one summer, the pastor, Rev. Dr. C. M. Bishop (1901-05), reported he “visited the principle cities of the Eastern states, studying modern church buildings and as a result suggested to the architect all the main features of the splendid new church.”

Attention to lighting, ventilation, comfortable seating with clear sight lines to the pulpit, good acoustics and an aesthetically pleasing setting, including a prominent dais and impressive organ case were important elements of church design at this time. A forced air ventilation system supplied fresh air and was used to heat and cool the building utilizing large blocks of ice. The pipe organ utilized tubular pneumatic action allowing the first remote console to be conveniently placed twenty feet from the case in the middle of the choir loft.

This last extant “gasolier” combination gas/electric light fixture recalls a time municipal electric service was is in its infancy.

Construction was slowed by the delays in shipment of quarry-faced limestone from the Carthage Stone Co., as well as settlement under the tower, which suspended its completion until the footing was excavated and pinned. Approximately sixteen feet, including four pinnacles, was eliminated from the original plans for a 100’ tower.

A pair of inspiring dedicatory sermons delivered by former pastor, Bishop Eugene R. Hendrix, helped raise the remaining funds and dedicate the building free of debt. True to the original intent to be the “center of Methodism in the city,” plans for the creation of the Wesley Community House, to serve the social needs of immigrants who had come to work in the stockyards, grew out of a church-wide meeting held in 1909. That agency continues as part of the present InterServ organization.

By the 1920’s, the Uniform Lesson Plan had fallen out of favor, as did Akron Plan Sunday Schools and auditorium-style worship spaces. Sunday School buildings began to look more like public grade schools and church architecture began to resemble more closely traditional rectangular Gothic designs with center aisles, a divided choir in the chancel and an altar against the wall. Auditorium-style settings have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity among non-liturgical churches in recent years, particularly “mega churches.”

The Francis Street Church outgrew its original Sunday School building necessitating the purchase of an adjoining double tenement house in 1924, which served as Sunday School space until it was replaced by a 9,700 square foot addition to the building in 1954.

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings: thereafter they shape us.” Like a piece of fine period furniture, our church home has and continues to shape and serve our Christian lives.

[Historical background information from “Redesigning Methodist Churches: Auditorium-Style Sanctuaries and Akron Plan Sunday Schools in Romanesque Costume 1875-1925,” in Connectionalism, Russell Richey, Editor; Abingdon (1997), p. 117-134.]


The art of making stained glass windows dates back six centuries. Before the printed word and the ability to read it were widespread, stained glass windows were used to communicate the faith and beautify the worship space. Our stained glass windows have graced our worship space and inspired members and guests for more than a century. Modern lighting allows us to share part of our faith with those outside our walls through our stained glass windows.

While the new building was under construction, the Building Committee, chaired by Theodore G. Hoagland, turned its attention toward the selection of a pew design, door hardware and contracts for the pipe organ and stained glass windows. Until this time, many evangelical protestant churches would not have considered using stained glass windows, particularly figured windows depicting saints and ancient Christian symbols.

However, during the Victorian period of the late nineteenth century, stained glass windows enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in churches, as well as commercial buildings and residences, as architects and decorators, in what became known as the Aesthetic Movement, sought to bring nature indoors through repeated geometric patterns, vivid colors and natural themes. Expansive stained glass windows provided an artistic way to let filtered natural light into the new auditorium churches that were being built.

The Louis Comfort Tiffany Co. took credit for developing Opalescent stained glass, also called Tiffany glass, the first to feature multiple colors in swirled patterns that created iridescent hues. This type of glass became popular among other American stained glass studios.

The architect suggested using narrative panels as a way to memorialize members, so the Building Committee solicited contributions from families and groups within the church to underwrite the cost of individual panels comprising two large windows in the new church. The Hoagland family agreed to underwrite the cost of the entire north window as a memorial to its late patriarch, George Hoagland.

George Hoagland, a lumberman, came to St. Joseph in 1852 from Booneville, Missouri, where he was instrumental in organizing the Presbyterian Church. He became active in this community, serving as president of a bank and a city councilman. He also became an active layperson in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was licensed to preach in 1861, and often filled the pulpit in addition to “visiting the sick and burying the dead.”

Hoagland lived to be almost 90 years old before passing in 1904, but his last years were spend in declining health. His son, Theodore, described him as a “very patient sufferer.” In later years, when asked about his own state, George Hoagland would say, “I am waiting [to pass].” His family decided to memorialize him by incorporating the biblical story of Simeon in the new window. Theodore Hoagland took responsibility for negotiating the details on behalf of his mother and spelled out their wishes in a letter dated March 31, 1905:

“We have settled on the ‘Nunc Dimittis,’ which of course is the scene in the Temple where Simeon is blessing the infant Christ by Fra Barthlolmmeo. My father was a very patient man and if you choose to weave any part of his character into the picture, it might be patience. Text, ‘In patience, possess ye your souls’ or ‘Let patience have her perfect work.’”

Simeon makes a singular appearance in the Gospel of St. Luke, 2:25, as an early layperson who worked in the Temple of Jerusalem. He, too, was described as an old man who had been waiting patiently for years to see a sign of God’s salvation, for it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

As was the custom of that time, Jesus’ parents brought him to the Temple to be blessed. They were greeted by Simeon, who took the infant into his arms and said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your Word, for my eyes have seen your salvation . . . . ”—a benediction which has been incorporated into the liturgy and song of the church for centuries.

The window was placed for bid among several of the country’s prominent stained glass houses, which submitted cartoons for Hoagland’s personal approval. Ultimately, even the Tiffany firm was passed over as Hoagland chose the Ford Brothers Studio of Minneapolis to carry out the work at a cost of $2,000, more than $40,000 in today’s money.

1. north window

Hoagland Memorial Window

Ford Brothers obtained the contract by suggesting the removal of the center mullion in order to make the central panel larger and also spread the scene across the adjoining panels. The window is executed in Opalescent glass in the Tiffany style, where each color, such as the fold in a robe, utilizes a different piece of glass. In some cases, the glass has been double or tripled layered in order to achieve the desired hue. The faces are hand-painted. An angel floats on a cloud in the rose section above the narrative panels. The fields, comprising the side panels and upper lancets feature a the texts, “I am Waiting” and “Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work” on banners in front of a flowing Oriental tea leaf design, a popular motif of the Aesthetic Movement, behind which is a sunset horizon.

North window center

Fra Bartolomeo painting


(The narrative section of the Hoagland Memorial Window is based on Fra Bartholommeo’s Renaissance painting of “Christ’s Presentation at the Temple,” the original of which was painted in 1516 for an altar of the  Church of San Marco in Florence, Italy.)

North window detail of robes

[In the Tiffany stained glass style, color contrast and depth is achieved by using individual pieces of opalescent glass, while hands and faces are hand-painted.]

North window angel 4 May 6, 2008 014

[The rose section of the window features an angel floating on a cloud.]

North window script detail 2010 045                         

  [The side panels contain banners with quotes suggested by the family with an oriental tea leaf motif and horizon extending into the upper lancets.]

East Window 107b

Ultimately, Ford Brothers received the contract for the balance of the stained glass windows, which cost $1,000. The large east window depicts scenes in the life of Jesus; The Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21), Christ at the Home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) and Christ Knocking at the Door (Revelation 3:20), while the lower outside panels feature Christian symbols. The rose section features a dove carrying an olive branch.

The narrative sections of these windows are executed in the art glass style, where the scene is painted on sections of glass which are then fired to seal the hues. The fields of these windows features flowing geometric patterns with a fleur-de-lis incorporated into the frame of the central panel, all common motifs of the Aesthetic Movement.

East window center section

East window center panel – “Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha”

9. East window left, good shepherd

East window center left panel – “The Good Shepherd”

10. East window right, knocking

East window center right panel – “Knocking at the Door”

11. Lilly window

[A third large window over the choir loft features an Easter lily in the rose section. The upper lancets of these windows feature a torch motif.]

12. Lilly window center

[Another interesting feature of the Akron Plan building is the semi-circular clerestory in the original Sunday School assembly hall, which has 37 stained glass panels.]

13. Kemper Hall clerestory

[The tower vestibule features an art glass window, given in memory of Perry Slade in 1942, titled, “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning,” his favorite hymn.]

Lighthouse window

[Six of the Chapel windows, incorporating scenes from the life of Jesus, came from First United Methodist Church.]

Chapel post renovation

16. chapel youth

During a four year project completed in 2004, the original windows were restored and covered by protective glass at a cost of more than $150,000.

17. window repair



For more than a century, our venerable pipe organ has helped set the mood for worship. In addition to supporting our choir and corporate song in worship, it has provided comfort in funeral and memorial services, majesty to many wedding processions, quiet subtlety on Christmas Eve, the proclamation of the risen Lord at Easter and support for other worship themes throughout the church year. As its size and versatility has increased, it has become a concert instrument for internationally acclaimed recitalists such as Diane Bish, Ken Cowan, and Nathan Laube.

The original pipe organ was built and installed at a cost of $3,500 by the Hook & Hastings Co. of Boston as their Opus 2112, comprising 14 ranks across 2 manuals and pedal. The organ, winded by an electric fan turbine, was considered modern in every way. Tubular-pneumatic action allowed the city’s first remote organ console to be placed twenty feet from the organ case in the middle of the choir loft.

The hand-pumped, tracker action organ in the previous building was also built by the Hook firm, Opus 1220, (1884), as was a small organ in the residence of James L. Ellingwood, whose son, James S. Ellingwood, supervised installation of this organ and paid for the addition of nine ranks in 1911. It appears, however, that the decision to purchase this instrument was left to the architect, who placed the project for bid among several east coast builders.

From 1873-1935, the Hook firm received 11 contracts to build or rebuild organs in St. Joseph and nearby Atchison, Kansas, including the First Church of Christ, Scientist, across the street (Opus 2151, 1907). Hook & Hastings’ last official contract, capping 123 years of American organ building, was the electrification of this organ’s action in 1935. The technician, E. A. Lahaise, painted his name on the chamber wall.

The organ case was designed by the architect in a time when a large, prominent pipe façade was considered an important part of any worship space and a “drawing card” for the church. The quarter sawn oak organ impost, designed by the architect, incorporates a clergy divan. The original polychromatic, banded case pipes, 25 of which function as part of the Great 8’ and 4’ principal stops, are found on other Hook organs from this period. They are indicative of the transition from flowing polychromatic stenciled designs applied to case pipes during the Aesthetic Movement to the monochromatic color schemes or unpainted cases pipes of the early twentieth century.

The organ was rebuilt and enlarged by three ranks by Charles McManis in 1976, and rebuilt and enlarged to three manuals and 31 ranks by Quimby Pipe Organs in 1986. In 1997, Quimby incorporated several ranks, as well as a set of chimes and a Wurlitzer Harp from the 1952 Moller organ in First United Methodist Church. The nine flue ranks in the Choir division and most of the Great and Swell Principal choruses have been revoiced and/or re-scaled by John Hendriksen, former head flue voicer for the Aeolian-Skinner Co. Most recently, new Great and Swell Mixtures were added in memory of Doris Jean Hannah, long-time organist at First Church. The original Hook & Hastings manual chests continue to function on original leather.

1. April 27, 2009 007

Hook & Hastings Co., Boston                                                                 Organ name plate
Opus 2112, 1906
Opus 2267, 1911
Opus 2614, 1935
Rebuilt and enlarged by McManis Organ Co., Kansas City, KS 1976
Quimby Pipe Organs, Inc., Warrensburg, MO 1986, 1997, 2003, 2014
Moller console with solid state multi-level combination action
III/44 Slider & Pitman chests with electro-pneumatic action

8′ Open Diapason (1-20 in case)
8′ Melodia
4′ Octave (1-5 in case)
4′ Flute d’amour
2 2/3′ Twelfth
2′ Fifteenth
1 1/3′ Mixture IV
8′ Cromorne
8′ Festival Trompette
4′ Clairon (ext.)
Choir & Antiphonal Chimes

8′ Open Diapason
8′ Gedeckt
8′ Viol de Gamba
8′ Voix Celeste TC
4′ Octave
4′ Flute Harmonique
2 2/3′ Sesquialtera II
2′ Super Octave
2′ Mixture III
8′ Trompette
8′ Oboe
8′ Vox Humana

16′ Gedeckt (prep)
8′ Bourdon
8′ Spitz Viol
8′ Voix Celeste TC
8′ Flauto Dolce
8′ Flute Celeste TC
4′ Prestant
4′ Rohrflute
2′ Spitzflote
1 1/3′ Larigot
8′ English Horn
8′ Festival Trompette (Gt.)

32′ Resultant
16′ Open Diapason
16′ Bourdon
16′ Lieblich Bourdon (Ch.)
8′ Principal
8′ Bourdon
8′ Gedeckt (ch) prep
4′ Octave
2 2/3′ Mixture III
16′ Posaune
8′ Tromba
4′ Clarion

[The original Great slider windchest holds the following original ranks (front to back): Cromorne, Flute d’Amour (stopped wood pipes), Melodia (open wood pipes), Twelfth (barely visible, not original) and the 8’Diapason, with lower notes tubed to the case pipes.]

                                                      [Added in 1911, this electro-pneumatic chest now holds the Great Mixture,                                                  Octave and Super Octave (15th) ranks.]

[Festival Trompette, located above the upper Great chest.]

[Swell division. When tuning, the organ technician must crouch on the suspended plank in order to reach some of the pipes.]

[Choir division: The 11 rank choir division is located behind the choir loft. The four bell Zimbelstern is mounted on the walk board.]

[Harp: The Wurlitzer Harp has graduated nickel-plated tubes and piano-like hammers that strike metal bars.]

[One Large Pipe: Low C# of the Pedal 16’ Open Diapason is constructed of sugar pine and measures approximately 12” square by 16’ long, requiring it to be mitered in order to fit in the chamber.]


1. Francis St 1886

Methodist Episcopal Church, South, NW corner 7th & Francis Streets (1857-1906)

When this site was purchased in 1857, St. Joseph was tightly packed against the Missouri River bank on which it depended for commerce. Some members complained that it was too far out of town. This Greek revival building was erected at a cost of $30,000. During the Civil War, the Confederate sympathies of some citizens clashed with its geographic location and Union business interests. Union forces were brought in to maintain order. Gen. Benjamin F. Loan prohibited the Rev. William Rush from preaching in this church and it was closed briefly and placed in the hands of a committee of members until a new pastor was appointed in 1862. The editor of the morning paper, commenting on the closing, said that very few of its members would go in the direction the finger on the bell tower pointed. In 1864, the congregation adopted the name Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

After it was vacated by the Francis Street Church, Dr. Jacob Geiger, a real estate investor who purchased the property, leased it to the First Methodist Church, which had sold its building on Fifth Street to make room for the Hotel Robidoux. The basement had been converted into a garage and leased to the Automobile Association. This was not an ideal arrangement as the sound of honking horns and backfiring engines often disrupted services taking place above. First M.E. Church occupied the site for two years until being asked to vacate so the building could be razed. The congregation moved to the YWCA until the basement of a new building at 8th & Faraon was completed in December 1909.

2. Francis St ME Easter 1898

Easter 1898, Francis Street M.E. Church, South
The Rev. Wilbur Fisk Packard stands at the pulpit amidst Easter flora in the Francis Street M.E. Church, South. The original hand-pumped Hook & Hastings pipe organ (Opus 1220) is behind him.

3. First (Union) ME Church

“Union” or “Fifth Street” Methodist Episcopal Church (1865-1906)

Having lost their building to foreclosure and gone without a regular pastor during the Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church regrouped and purchased a building on the west side of Fifth Street between Francis and Jules streets, originally built by the Disciples of Christ in 1857 but abandoned by them and later used as a theatre. The women of the church paid half of the $2,000 cost to construct the adjoining nine-room parsonage at $30 a month. The church was also known as the Fifth Street M.E. Church prior to adopting the name, First Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1894.

4. First ME sunday school class

Children’s Sunday School Class of First Methodist Episcopal Church, 1904

5. Francis St. UMC, exterior postcard

Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church, South

An early postcard view of the NW corner of the new church, showing the semi-circular clerestory of the Sunday School Assembly Hall and outside wall of the perimeter classrooms on two levels, distinguishing features of the Akron Plan. The tower entrance and steps were removed in 1942.

6. Sunday School rooms in balcony & ground floor, west auditorium 5 Nov 1951

The perimeter Sunday School classrooms of the Francis Street Church were separated from the Assembly Hall by drapes prior to being permanently partitioned. The Assembly Hall opened into the auditorium via four large sliding pocket doors. Like many Akron Plan Sunday Schools, the space has been converted to other uses. This opening was permanently closed to create Kemper Hall.

7. Forum Class

Men’s Forum Sunday School Class of Francis Street M.E. Church, South, 1923

During the early twentieth century, large adult Sunday School classes were an important form of evangelism. Rev. Dr. John Caskey (1918-1926) stands at the bottom right, wearing a cut-away Morning Coat, which was typical “preaching attire” for Protestant pastors at this time. The Forum Class had officers and it own stationery, which boasted, “The Bible, Taught to Men from a Man’s Point of View.”

8. First UMC exterior postcard

First Methodist Episcopal Church, SE corner 8th & Faraon
“The White Temple”

In 1903, First Church purchased the Buell home on the northeast corner of 10th and Charles for $10,500, $3,000 of which was paid by the Ladies Aid Society. In 1907, the decision was made to build instead at 8th and Faraon. The congregation selected a Tudor Gothic revival combination church plan from the prominent Cleveland, Ohio, firm of Badgley & Nicklas. Bishop William A. Quayle helped lay the cornerstone on June 10, 1909. Completion of construction was celebrated by six days of dedicatory services in May 1910. The Rev. Frank E. Day preached his first sermon on May 15. At his first glimpse of the church, he exclaimed, “Why it looks like a ‘White Temple,’” a nickname which stayed with the building for the next 85 years. The Sunday School Assembly Hall was separated from the Auditorium by a large door that disappears into the ceiling.

9. First church sanctuary 4

Chancel of First Methodist Church, 1960

The chancel apse of First Methodist Church featured an oil on canvas mural incorporating ancient monograms of Christ and the twelve apostles completed in 1952.

10. Wesley Settement House

Wesley Social Settlement House

At the turn of the twentieth century, settlement houses were a pioneering form of social ministry begun within the women’s missionary societies of the Methodist churches to provide social services for immigrants. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, opened its first settlement house in Nashville in 1901, followed by Dallas and Atlanta in 1902. In 1909, the Wesley Social Settlement House of St. Joseph opened on the city’s south side to serve the immigrants who had come to work in the meat packing plants. Although it was organized under the auspices of the women missionary societies of St. Joseph’s southern Methodist churches, members of the Francis Street Church provided much of the leadership and financial support in its early years and have served on its board throughout its history. Later known as the Wesley Community Center, this social service agency merged with Catholic Family and Community Services in 1971 and the Presbyterian and United Church of Christ’s local service agencies in 1974 to form Interfaith Community Services, known as InterServ.

Missouri Methodist Hospital

Before Mosaic Life Care, the city’s two major hospitals were known by their founding sponsors, “Sisters” and “Methodist.” The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul opened a hospital in 1869. In 1897, the Missouri Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church took over Ensworth Hospital & Medical College. After the college closed in 1914, plans were made to build a modern, fireproof 200-bed hospital on the northeast corner of 8th and Faraon Street. Construction began in 1918, but was not completed until 1924, due to fundraising delays and inflation. The final cost was $1 million. Fifty years later, the churches began to withdraw from active management, and eventually gifted their facilities to not-for-profit community-based hospital corporations.

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