Try to imagine Salina, Kansas, in 1863. Kansas Indian raids were numerous. Kansas became the 34th state January 29, 1861, three months before the commencement of the Civil War. The Civil War took its toll on Kansas in 1863 and 1864. During all this turmoil, the Methodist Church was established in Salina in 1863 in a carpenter shop on Fifth Street.
In 1867, Methodists erected the first church building in Salina on Seventh Street between Ash and Elm. Josiah Copley wrote in his diary of June 14, 1867, “To show how fast they do things here (Salina) I may mention that the Methodist Society have reared a neat little meeting house from the foundation since I have been here, that is, this week, and expect to hold a quarterly meeting in it on next Sunday.” The Kansas Pacific Railroad had just been extended west to Salina. A year later, the Methodists shared their church meeting place with the Baptists and met weekly together for prayer meetings.
In 1871, the trustees built a new church at our present location. This lot 99 was purchased for $150.00. The walls were built and stood for months until a very heavy wind blew down the south wall. The crash was said to have been heard two miles away. The spirits of the congregation must have been low, for there was a big debt and nothing to show for it. The congregation doubled their efforts and raised more money. They finally completed the new church in 1873. The new church would seat 350 members. The congregation used boards across nail kegs for seats.
In 1909, a group of 80 members who lived in the south part of Salina left First Church to help form University Methodist Episcopal Church. The 1873 church was torn down and our present church structure was completed in 1916. The first service in the new church was held July 1, 1917. At that service nearly $44,000 was raised in 47 minutes.
Methodism made large strides in 1917, establishing two mission churches: Grand Avenue Methodist and Oakdale Church. Oakdale Church was later sold to the Church of God. On Easter Sunday, 1933, there were 212 members taken into our church.
In 1940 the name changed to The First Methodist Church of Salina after the merger of Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, and Protestant Methodist. This was the year the Woman's Society of Christian Service (WSCS) was formed. The 1943 minutes state the church indebtedness had been paid and there was a balance of $3,000. The Youth Fellowship was organized in 1945 as well as sponsorship of Boy and Girl Scout troops.
During the mid 1940’s and early 1950’s, the congregation grew to that extent that two morning services were needed to accommodate the congregation. The Education wing was added to the south of the present building in 1955. The Easter service in 1955 was held at Memorial Hall and proved so satisfactory that it was continued for eight years. In 1957-58, the kitchen and basement were remodeled. In 1959 the property north of the church was purchased.
In 1960, the Long Range Planning Committee of First Church had pledged $24,000 over a three-year period for support of a Methodist Church in Southeast Salina. In 1962, 30 families, 56 adults plus children, left First Church to form Trinity Methodist Church. In 1961 the sanctuary was renovated. In 1963 there were three services on Easter Sunday morning. The merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church resulted in the establishment of The United Methodist Church.
The church foundation was established in 1983. Income from it has been used to fund many special projects in the church.
In 1991 the property directly to the south of the church was acquired for a parking lot. Three years later the elevator was remodeled and extended to the third floor, making our church fully accessible. Three years following those improvements, the property south of the educational building.
Our church enthusiastically accepted responsibility in 1999 to provide support for our member, Lisa Armstrong, RN, as our medical missionary to Honduras. The same year a garage was built on the northeast corner of our property.
The playground was added in the area south of the garage in 2001. A major renovation of the sanctuary began in 2003. In 2010, the 55-year old Education Wing of the Church was renovated. In 2013 the remodeling of Fellowship Hall, our Church “family room,” was completed.
Sunday School Classes are a major part of our church. We have 9 adult Sunday School Classes. They include Peacemaker’s Sunday School (65 years old), Crusaders (61 years old), Lifeliters, Seekers, Gracefinders, Pathfinders, Cornerstone and Crosstrainers. We also have children’s and youth Sunday School classes.