Springfield First United Methodist Church (SFUMC) has never wavered from its primary mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. With Christ at the center of SFUMC for many decades, former members of our church have helped establish a legacy that every member benefits from today. Yet, nothing remains the same forever. Remnants of significant change are visible throughout the hallways and breezeways of the church as growth has transformed, rebuilt, and upgraded buildings. The construction of new buildings, fellowship halls, classrooms, and the latest Moore Center are evidence of risk taking vibrancy. Church leaders of the past stepped out in faith to ensure SFUMC remained a bedrock within this community for their children, their grandchildren, and for future generations. Nonetheless, just as members of the early years were rooted in Christ to ensure the vitality of His church, it is now time to celebrate, strengthen, and sustain our church through Living the Legacy.
In 1830’s, lot 57 in Springfield was purchased by the Trustees of the Methodist Church. They built a church on the corner of Oak Street and Spring Street (now Seventh Avenue). The joy is that this was our church – the first of four buildings.
The building was used until 1855, when Jeremiah Cullom became pastor. By that time, the church was in disrepair, and services were held at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church nearby. Cullom had the church torn down lest members choose to avoid rebuilding. He also went from house to house asking for pledges in order to avoid financial problems. In 1855 the church was built – and almost totally paid for by the time of the first sermon. When Cullom returned to Springfield in 1875, the membership was 119. In his journal, he mentions jail visitations and the formation of a “ladies Christian Association.”
This second building was used until February, 1882, when it burned to the ground. The third church was the red brick church, and much of the work was done by Henry H. Kirk and his family – brick makers, bricklayers, and builders. This was the first church to face Oak Street. The membership had continued to grow and was recorded as 170. Within a short time, however, more room was needed. Wings were built to house more Sunday school classrooms. When Annual Conference was scheduled for Springfield in 1907, the church was too small, and the meetings had to be held elsewhere. In early 1911, there were 326 church members. There was a Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society with about fifty members and a Juvenile Missionary Society with twenty-five members. There was a need for a larger building and more land. The Men’s Bible Class, taught by Rev. David Ausmus, was organized in 1914 with fifteen members. By 1916, the enrollment was 275. At first the class, attended by men from several different churches, met in a tent. Next they met at the Courthouse. It was obvious that more room was needed again, but with homes on all adjoining property, the answer was no longer one of adding on. The red brick church was torn to the ground, and the yellow brick church, including our beautiful sanctuary, was completed in 1916.
This fourth church was dedicated on October 7, 1917 with a membership of 484. The Sunday school had an attendance of 600, with fifty on the Cradle Roll (the Nursery). In 1922, the membership recorded by Rev. W. J. Jarrett was 488. There were three Missionary Societies, and the women sent supplies to the Cumberland Mountain School. When World War II lowered church attendance, the work of the women of the church continued. Holding church services at the jail was one of their projects. Membership in 1942 was 706. Of course, through the years, there have been many needs. Several new programs were developed in the 1950’s – providing a nursery for church events, college scholarships for graduating seniors, and the possibility of the church service being broadcast on the new radio station, WDBL. An addition connected the yellow brick building with the parsonage, and classrooms were added. Membership reached 867 in the 1960’s. This necessitated additional parking. It also meant that the parsonage had to be renovated as additional Sunday school classrooms. A weekday nursery school had been organized, and the Dozier property on Walnut Street became the new parsonage. In the 1980’s, the Education Building held more classrooms, a Fellowship Hall, and a new kindergarten area. Buildings have been torn down, and new ones have gone up. Property has been bought, and places for more parking – more members – have been added. There were also more programs for members’ participation. In November, 2004, ninety Christmas Shoeboxes had been collected, as well as seventy bags for the homeless. The goal for White Christmas that year was 150 boxes. Membership in 2007 was 985. In 2008, membership was 1004.
The latest growth has included the Moore Center – a meeting place for many purposes and many people. With a new Prayer Room, a spacious Library, office space, bright and inviting classrooms – there is room for everyone, and everyone is welcome as our membership numbers now reach 1100.