First United Methodist Church in Boulder — A brief history
One August afternoon in 1859, Rev. Jacob Adriance rode into the bustling new mining camp of Boulder City, Colorado. Rev. Adriance had been hurriedly dispatched by the Methodist Nebraska Conference to minister to Colorado’s gold-seekers, and to establish a mission at the foot of the mountains.
Rev. Adriance lived in Golden City and made frequent visits to the towns and camps in the area. After preaching in Boulder on November 27, 1859, Rev. Adriance organized a class of six members into the Boulder Methodist Church, Colorado’s fourth Methodist congregation.
For ten years the Methodists met in Boulder’s Central School and in the Congregational Church. The Methodist church had nine members and its first resident minister in 1870. They constructed their first building on the corner of Fourteenth and Spruce in 1872. A new building, built of native stone in the Romanesque Revival style, was dedicated on the same corner in September 1892. A parsonage was built in 1906, and the parlor wing was added in 1914.
As the Boulder Methodist Church grew, a variety of classes and programs were organized to provide Christian education and fellowship for all ages. In 1908, the church launched a music ministry with the purchase of its first pipe organ.
Following Methodist tradition, the congregation supported missionary activities at home and abroad. The church also worked to improve the quality of life for individuals in the Boulder community. One major project in 1919 was to organize the Wesley Foundation as a ministry for Methodist students at the University of Colorado.
Church membership increased to almost 1,400 by the church’s seventy-fifth anniversary in 1934. Expansion and modernization of the church property became an ongoing priority for the congregation. Over the next twenty years members supported a number of building additions and purchases. In 1953, an education wing, including new church offices, was constructed. In 1959, the Methodists held their Centennial Year Celebration and dedicated the present Sanctuary building. At that time, the 1888 Roosevelt pipe organ was salvaged from Grace Methodist church in Denver and reinstalled in the new sanctuary. In 1994 a small addition added an elevator, making the building accessible to persons with disabilities.
Outreach and missions were important activities of Methodist Church members. The congregation sponsored missionaries around the world and brought refugee families to Colorado. In addition, the church contributed financially to hospitals, schools and churches in all parts of the globe.
The Methodist Church was a vital presence in the local community, as well. In 1956, the church managed the construction of the Frasier Meadows retirement facility. In 1958, the church shared both its membership and finances to become the mother church of Boulder’s second Methodist congregation, Mountain View church. In recent years First United Methodist Church has provided space for many community agencies such as Hospice, the Women’s Resource Center, and the Boulder County AIDS Project.
In 1997 First Church became a Reconciling Congregation, welcoming all persons without regard to age, gender, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic condition, disability, or any other real or perceived separating condition. As John Wesley preached, “If your heart is with my heart, if you love and serve God, it is enough. Give me your hand.”
In 2001, the First Church building was designated a City of Boulder Landmark. Also that year, a Labyrinth was created in Tippett Hall below the sanctuary. In the fall of 2001, Mountain Haven Retreat House was acquired in Rollinsville, about an hour’s drive into the mountains west of Boulder. It houses visiting Theologians-in-Residence.
Today, First United Methodist Church offers a comprehensive program of worship, learning and service to the community. People have come to this church since 1859 for a rich spiritual experience and warm fellowship — traditions we continue to enjoy. We remember our Methodist pioneers with gratitude for the blessings they bestowed upon our church. May the heritage they left inspire us to build as strongly in the future as they did in the past.