436 Vine St.
Johnstown, PA 15901
(814) 536-8844
From the Pastor Staff Leadership Church History

Church History

churchThe First United Methodist Church of Johnstown, Pennsylvania began in 1838 as a United Brethren class,when a charter group of twenty-four people began holding meetings in the homes of class members. In 1843, the church was organized with ten members and in 1844, a small frame chapel for the First United Brethren Church was built on the corner of Main and Jackson Streets. In 1868, the little chapel was sold and the first stone church was erected at Vine and Stonycreek Streets. This “Old Stone Church” withstood the disastrous flood of 1889. The parsonage, however, was carried about a mile down the Stonycreek River. In 1890, a new brick parsonage was built next to the church building. Increases in church and Sunday School attendance led to the decision in 1910 to tear down the old structure and build the currentchurch on the same site. Dedication services were held for the new building on Sunday, November 24, 1912

The First United Brethren Church suffered a second major disaster with the St.Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936. The congregation battled back, determined that the Lord would grant them mercy and grace for continuing ministry.

church First Church was the scene of the historic merger of the United Brethren and Evangelical Churches on November 16, 1946, which formed a new denomination known as the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The clasped hands in the medallion above the altar in the sanctuary dome represent the hands of Bishops Clippinger and Stamm clasped in union.

The church was also the birthplace of the mission organization known asthe Women’s Society of World Service. After the union of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968, the congregation became known as the First United Methodist Church of Johnstown.

Another merger occurred in our sanctuary on October 11, 1969, when the former Evangelical United Brethren Conference joined with the former Methodist Conference of Western Pennsylvania to form the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The church withstood yet a third disastrous flood, occurring July 20, 1977. The basement was filled with water to the ceiling. The congregation worked hard to restore the property and vowed to remain faithful to making disciples of Jesus Christ in the heart of the city.

The 1996 General Conference of the United Methodist Church designated First Church a Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church. There are only 39 such landmarks in the United Methodist Church. First Church of Johnstown is one of the few that still houses a worshiping,working congregation.

In 2004, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton began serving as Resident Bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Reverend Alyce Weaver-Dunn is the current Johnstown District Superintendent. The Reverend Edward Harold has been appointed pastor of First Church since July, 2014.

A Hertiage Landmark

history3The Evangelical Church and the United Brethren in Christ were both German-speaking bodies influenced by Methodism and Pietism. Each was founded at the turn of the nineteenth century, and had talked of union as early as 1813. It was not until 1924 that conversation began to move towards action and union discussions began in earnest.

Formal merger came in November 1946. For three days, the two denominations held their last General Conferences in separate sessions in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The Evangelical Church met at Beulah Dale Evangelical Church and the United Brethren in Christ met at the First United Brethren Church. On Saturday, November 16, 1946, at 9:00 a.m., delegates and visitors from both denominations filled the sanctuary of the First United Brethren Church. As Evangelical and United Brethren bishops processed to the chancel, the congregation sang "Lead On, O King Eternal." Bishop A. R. Clippinger read the formal declaration of union, which was followed by the singing of "Blest Be the Tie That Binds." The new church then celebrated Holy Communion and entered into the business sessions of the first General Conference of the newly organized Evangelical United Brethren Church.In his episcopal address, Bishop A. R. Clippinger expressed the hopes of the new denomination: "We believe that this is the will of our Heavenly Father, and that it will be his good pleasure to bless our efforts. In that spirit we launch this new Ship of Zion on uncharted seas and choose to call it The Evangelical United Brethren Church. The same North Star that guidedus safely, as separate denominations, through rough and turbulent waters, will guide this new Ship of Zion to its desired haven."

Membership of the new denomination was over 750,000. In 1968, The Evangelical United Brethren Church merged with The Methodist Church to form The United Methodist Church.The Johnstown church building was dedicated on November 24, 1912. Initially called First United Brethren Church, it is today named First United Methodist Church of Johnstown.

Points of interest at this Heritage Landmark: The church maintains a history room which displays items from the church's history as well as from the 1946 uniting conference.

Special events: The church celebrates an Anniversary Sunday on the second Sunday of November each year.

Area attractions: The Johnstown Flood Museum at 304 Washington Street displays memorabilia documenting the development of Johnstown as a transportation and industrial center as well as the famous 1889 flood.The city of Pittsburgh is west of Johnstown.

To visit: The First United Methodist Church is an active United Methodist congregation. It is open for regular worship; contact the church if you wish to visit at another time: 436 Vine Street, Johnstown, PA 15901; 814-536-8844. The church is open Tuesday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday's hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Saturdays by appointment,and Sundays 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.