WARSAW — A Kosciusko County church rich in heritage is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. First United Methodist Church of Warsaw is still going strong at 425 members to this day.
The church traces its beginnings back to 1838, when Rev. Richard D. Hargrave, a circuit rider, preached the first Methodist sermon in Warsaw.
“A lot of early pastors were circuit riders,” said Janet Kirkpatrick, who serves as church historian.
Since its inception, the church has been located at several different places. At first, it was located at a cabin in Kosciusko County. The cabin was owned by Matthew D. Springer, a pastor and circuit rider. The year was 1838. Next, the church was located a few blocks away from its current location. It was torn down and later rebuilt in 1848.
The banner years for Methodism in Warsaw was from 1844 to 1845. Meetings were held in the two-story courthouse, built in 1837. A Sunday school was organized with 40 scholars and six teachers.
A brick church was built in 1868 at the same site as the current church. It was torn down in 1915. The new church cost $64,900 to build and a major donor gave $5,000.
In 1915, the current building, a domed brick church, was built and dedicated in 1916. In 1968, Methodists voted to join with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, forming the United Methodist Church. In 1979, a major renovation to the church added office space and updated the sanctuary.
So far, 56 different senior pastors and 15 associate pastors have served at the church.
Steve Truman is a longtime member. He serves as the assistant treasurer. Kirkpatrick serves as the church historian. Both grew up in the church as children.
“My great-grandma went here, and my parents went here and were married here,” Kirkpatrick said.
The current pastor is Mark Need. He said the church’s ties to the community are what has kept the church growing for so long.
“We have a real ministry of hospitality,” Need said. “We are socially active.”
Need added eight Alcoholics Anonymous groups currently meet at the church. The church also has a non-food pantry and weekly, free lunches Wednesdays.
“Using this building for those purposes is why we exist,” Need said.
The church also serves as a site for concerts. “We have an endowment that pays for music concerts here,” said Need.
The downtown Warsaw church is known for its big red dome and a carillon, or church bells, playing every hour.
The church has another site, called The Connection, located on West Lake Street in Warsaw.
Today, the church continues to be a centrally located meeting source for both district and regional conference workshops and events.
For information, visit www.warsawfumc.org.