In 1895 I.M. Reeves decided that there should be a Methodist church in Wenatchee. So on April 16, the Tuesday after Easter, he loaded up his wagon, made the trip across the Columbia River to Waterville, picked up Myron Brown, the Methodist minister, and returned to Wenatchee to help conduct the organizational meeting of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Wenatchee. By late 1896, the tiny congregation had built its first church building, on land deeded to it by the Wenatchee Land Commission, at the corner of Chelan and Orondo streets.
The foresight of Reeves' vision became clear as the congregation quickly grew. By 1904, the original church was far too crowded for its growing congregation. Led by Rev. Lauren Kufus, the church's pastor (1903-1907) and local crusader against the evils of liquor, the congregation moved its former building up the street and built a more commodious new building at the corner site. In 1908 and again in 1924, the church was host to the sessions of the Columbia River Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1915 Pastor N.M. Jones (1912-1915, 1924-1925) and District Superintendent Robert Brumley decided Wenatchee should have a Protestant hospital, so the congregation raised over $15,000 to start the Wenatchee Deaconness Hospital, in the former John Gellatly home. This hospital, following its purchase of the local Catholic hospital in the early 1970's, still serves as the major hospital for the entire North Central Washington region. United Methodist and Roman Catholic church leaders continue to elect the hospital's Board of Directors.
Pastor Robert Warner (1917-1921) led the congregation in continued growth. Under his leadership, Miss Daisy Willia Caffray joined the church's staff as Assistant Pastor. On June 27, 1920, just hours after the decision of the Methodist Episcopal General Conference to allow women to be licensed to preach, Miss Caffray became the first official woman preacher in the history of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Ready to grow, but feeling cramped in its current space, the church voted to purchase land at the corner of Orondo and Alaska streets. The lean years of the Great Depression followed, with the entire country suffering the effects of the poor economy. Payments on the new property were too much for the congregation, and the land was lost to foreclosure. Even the wood frame building began to show the effects of neglect and the church struggled to make ends meet. In 1939, following the merger of three denominations (Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, and Methodist Protestant), the church became part of the newly-formed Methodist Church. A new pastor, Rev. Joseph Beall (1940-1947) led the church to revitalization, and in 1949 the church decided to move to its current Washington and Miller Street location.
The 1950's, under Rev. James Albertson (1950-1960) were a period of great excitement and vitality, as the congregation both built its current sandstone facility and expanded its mission outreach beyond its former limits. In 1960, the church was recognized as having the largest Sunday School enrollment of any church in Washington State.
The 1960's were a period of relative stability, however the late 1960's saw the church embroiled in societal concerns over the Vietnam war. (Richard Tuttle 1960-1965) (J. Henry Ernst 1965-1969) The merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church led to the congregation becoming part of the new United Methodist Church. (Robert Brizee 1969-1970) (Paul Kuhn, Associate Pastor 1969-1971) (Paul Peterson 1970-1974) The 1970's began as a period of renewal, but by 1974, the church was in turmoil as a result of the Bethesda movement in the Wenatchee Valley. (William Buford 1974-1980) The mid-1970's through late 1980's were a period of retrenchment, as the church struggled to regain its mission and its place in the community.
In 1989, Rev. Mary Ann Swenson (1989-1992) was appointed to the church. Her energy and charisma helped the church turn an important corner. In 1992, the congregation completed its elevator project, the first major change to the building since its completion in 1954. In August of 1992, Rev. Swenson was elected bishop of the United Methodist Church and was transferred to Denver, Colorado. She became the eighth woman bishop in the United Methodist Church, and only the third bishop ever elected from the Pacific Northwest Conference.
Rev. Sanford Brown (1992-2001) became senior pastor of the church in September of that year. Under his leadership the congregation has embarked on new mission projects, has increased in attendance over 50% and has accomplished a major renovation of the facility, as well as purchase of adjacent properties for future expansion. The church continues to celebrate a remarkable history of faith put into action.
Rev. Tom Eberle (2001-2006) became senior pastor in July of 2001. Tom's main focus was to do the basics well. Tom is known for his entertaining sermons, and compassionate nature.
Rev. Julia Price, (2006-2013), became senior pastor in July 2006. Pastor Julie has been an ordained pastor for 30 years serving United Methodist Churches in Tacoma, Puyallup, Everett, Port Orchard, Sumner and most recently in Lakewood, WA. She attended seminary at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver where she met her husband Barry Price. She is originally from Iowa but her family now lives in Oklahoma.
Rev. Mike Nickerson (2013-2014), was appointed as our interim pastor for a period of one year to move the church forward, grow the ministries of First Church, and ready the congregation for when a new permanent pastor is found.
Rev. John and Rev. Joanne Coleman Campbell (2014-present) are co-pastors currently serving First Church. Rev. John served the Clark Fork Valley Parish, Toppenish; Tacoma: St. Paul’s; Spokane: Highland Park; and Yelm Community UMC. Pastor Joanne served Epworth LeSourd UMC (Tacoma); Liberty Park UMC (Spokane); Cheney UMC; and Olympia: First UMC