2019 marks First United Methodist Church of Boulder’s 160th birthday! We will be celebrating throughout the year with special events, culminating in a special service marking this milestone on Sunday, November 24, at 10:30 AM, with Rev. Chuck Schuster as our Guest Preacher. Check back to this page often for details about anniversary year happenings!
As First Church prepares to celebrate the 160th anniversary of its founding this year, 2019, a weekly Fun Fact about the church will be shared (new facts added on Fridays). We hope you enjoy getting to know a few things about our church’s fascinating history.
FUMC Fun Facts
1/11: The Boulder Methodist Church was organized with six members on November 27, 1859 by Jacob Adriance, a Methodist preacher sent to the Colorado Territory by the Nebraska Conference of the Methodist Church. Rev. Adriance first arrived in the Territory in the summer of 1859. Walking or riding a pony, he visited Boulder City, Golden City, Gold Hill and other mining camps to preach and lead prayer meetings. He rode this circuit for two years.
1/18: According to Rev. Jacob Adriance’s diary, he preached his first sermon in Boulder on August 14, 1859, at the home of Mr. Moore, using John 3:16 as his text. Also, according to Rev. Adriance’s diary, in September 1859, he again preached in Boulder, and this time, he preached in “the upper room of a saloon.”
1/25: In November 1871, The Boulder Methodist Church acquired two lots at 14th and Spruce at a cost of $200. The first “real” church building was erected on this corner with worship services being held there from 1872-1891.
2/1: In 1892, the Boulder Methodist Church built a new church on the same site as the original church (corner of 14th and Spruce). It cost $22,500.00 and was made of native stone from nearby Green Mountain Quarry. The new church boasted a novel feature: central heating! A portion of this church forms the western-most part of our current structure (the chapel, bell tower and choir room areas). The beautiful stained glass windows of the chapel and choir room are treasured remembrances of the 1892 sanctuary.
2/8: In 1903, construction of a brick parsonage began. This structure is the current home of BCAP (the Boulder County AIDS Project). In 1914, an addition was made to the 1892 church building (currently the parlor area), and in 1953 the “educational wing” was completed. In the church’s Centennial year, 1959, construction of the “new” sanctuary began (the current sanctuary). It was dedicated in 1960. Since then, it has undergone several remodels, the most recent being in 2009.
2/15: In 1891, when the congregation was building the “new” church (now the “old” church), two stone masons who had recently moved to Colorado got the contract for the stone work. One of the stone masons had lost a young daughter, Lula, before moving to Colorado. As part of the stone work he did on the church, he carved an “angel face” as a memorial to Lula. You can still see it today. It is on the north side of the doors that are the on west side of the new/old church.
2/22: Over the years, a number of “famous” people have spoken at FUMC. Appropriately, on February 23, 1914, Helen Keller gave her Heart and Hand lecture in our sanctuary. According to reports of the day, the church was packed to the rafters, with over 785 people paying 50-75 cents to hear her speech.
3/1: In 1891, when it was decided that the original church should be torn down and a new Methodist church should be erected, the plans included a 75 foot tower that could house a very large bell. Mr. H.N. Bradley, who has been described as “a very civic minded citizen,” donated the bell as an expression of his gratefulness for his son’s recovery from a very grave illness. It arrived in Boulder in January 1892 and was hoisted to the tower in June of that year. The bell weighs 2,300(!) pounds and is 44 inches at the mouth.
3/8: What is this angel’s name? In the 1970’s a local artist painted several murals of Noah and his ark (one is now located in the stairwell that leads from the first floor – just outside the Parlor on the west side – to the second floor – near the choir room). She also created a very large soft-sculpture angel. For a while, the angel floated above the pulpit, and eventually she made her way to hanging in the narthex. Apparently, a visiting youth group found her and hung her on the bell tower rope! The angel probably made her way to the Wesley Center at some point in the 1980’s, but her whereabouts today is unknown. Oh, she was named Gabriella!
3/15: Each March for the past 22 years, FUMC has celebrated the anniversary of the church becoming a member church of the Reconciling Ministries Network. What does that mean? In the fall of 1996, while Mark Heiss was the Senior Pastor, a series of meetings were held to discuss a proposal from the Reconciling Congregation Program Committee that FUMC should become a Reconciling Congregation. The goal of these meetings was to thoughtfully discuss this proposal and reach a decision by consensus. Following the Administrative Council’s decision that it supported FUMC becoming a Reconciling Congregation, an all-church gathering was held on March 2, 1997, to put the question to the congregation as a whole. Those present at that gathering affirmed the conclusion reached by the Administrative Council and adopted the following statement: “Because we, First United Methodist Church of Boulder, believe God intends the church to be a community which embodies love, grace and justice for all people, we welcome 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.” The adoption of this statement confirmed that FUMC is, and has been since March 2, 1997, a Reconciling Congregation. At this time, there are nearly 1,000 Reconciling Congregations within the world-wide United Methodist Church, with over 30 of those being in Colorado. Today, FUMC continues to work for justice and to love kindness as we seek equality for all of God’s people.
3/22: On Sunday, March 24, we’ll celebrate the 150th anniversary of what has become known as United Methodist Women (UMW). UMW inherits the vision and toil of women’s missionary societies that have existed since 1869. Its legacy began when the Methodist Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society first organized in Boston in response to the lack of health care and education for women and children in India. By November 1869, the WFMS had raised funds and sent Isabella Thoburn, an educator, and Dr. Clara Swain, a doctor, to India. Over time, strong women’s mission societies were formed and became powerful, independent women’s organizations, sending hundreds of missionaries all over the world. The Ladies Aid Societies, which had existed for many years, were incorporated into the missionary societies in the 1940s. Through reorganization and denominational mergers, these various groups were brought together. In 1973, United Methodist Women became the women’s mission organization of the United Methodist Church. FUMC’s Ladies’ Aid Society (later the Woman’s Society for Christian Service and still later United Methodist Women) was organized shortly after 1869. It has remained steadfast in its mission work both close to home and far away since that time.
3/29: On December 21, 1891, the 200-member congregation of the Boulder Methodist Church laid the cornerstone for the new church building. Of interest is the revelation (from a contemporaneous newspaper account) that a box of artifacts was deposited underneath the stone. Church officials had deposited various pieces of memorabilia in a tin box. A clerk of the Board of Trustees read off a list of the books, newspapers and artifacts, including “old relics and coins” that had been placed in the box. More particularly, the box contained a Bible, the first hymnal used in Boulder, current issues of the Rocky Mountain Christian Advocate, Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Herald, Boulder Weekly Tribune, and the Boulder Weekly News. Additional items in the collection were the Denver University and State University (University of Colorado) catalogs, church catechisms, and even literature on prohibition. The tin box under the cornerstone has not been opened since it was carefully set in place in 1891! Who knows what “relics” remain in that box. (Excerpted from an article by Sylvia Pettem that appeared in The Daily Camera on December 2, 2004.)
4/5: Members of FUMC have been passionate about social justice throughout its nearly 160 years. Highlights of the church’s activism will be reported from time to time. Let us begin with a newspaper article, the headline of which was “Methodist Group Protests Negro Discrimination.” It reported that “a recommendation to boycott all Boulder eating-houses which discriminate against Negroes was passed by acclamation by the National Council of Methodist Youth Thursday night” (this Council was apparently holding its conference in Boulder). Additionally, the resolution “recommended that the conference hold its future conventions in cities ‘where no delegate whatever be excluded on any basis’.” The investigation committee visited 25 eating-houses in Boulder, found only “four willing to serve Negroes unconditionally, and obtained consent of a few others to serve Negroes who were in a group of white delegates.” Conference officials were assured by the University of Colorado that “Negro delegates would find no discrimination on the campus,” and they were “allowed” to eat in most of the Greek-letter and private boarding houses. However, they did not have “rooms on the Hill.” It is believes this article was published in September 1938, and probably came from the Boulder Daily Camera. However, the newspaper and date are not noted in the source from which this “Fact” was taken.
4/26: In 1989, FUMC received a very generous donation from the Madge Aden Estate. Madge Aden and her husband, Fred, who was an early director of the Wesley Foundation, were interested in and involved with young people and made many contributions to youth activities during their lifetimes. In 1990 the Scholarship Endowment Fund and Committee were established, and in 1991, the first scholarship of $500 was awarded to Jayne Strauss. In 1993, the Church Council approved an annual Mothers’ Day collection to help fund this scholarship. FUMC’s United Methodist Women’s organization transferred its scholarship funds to the FUMC Scholarship Fund in 1994. Thousands of dollars have been awarded since then. While interest from this endowment is meant to fund the scholarship, the interest is not really sufficient to award multiple scholarships. Although the Scholarship Fund has been designated as the special offering during the entire month of May, a special collection will be taken again this Mothers’ Day (May 12) in FUMC’s ongoing effort to help our young people further their educations. Please consider a generous contribution.
5/3: The Roosevelt Organ has graced FUMC’s sanctuary since 1960, when the “new” church was completed (more about this organ in a later Fun Fact). Prior to that time, the church was blessed with another pipe organ, known as the Hope-Jones Organ. According to the Official Register and Directory of 1912 (published by the Methodist Brotherhood of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Boulder), in the very early years of the 1900s, “various schemes for securing a new pipe organ were considered”, but it wasn’t until 1908 that the electric-action Hope-Jones pipe organ was installed and dedicated. Part of the funding to purchase the organ was secured by the pledge of Andrew Carnegie to give $1,250.00 (the total amount raised was $3,900.00 which was apparently sufficient to pay for the instrument). On January 21, 1908, an opening concert was performed by Prof. George M. Chadwick of the “State University”, who was “one of the most cultured organ players in this country” and who was the organ’s “chief designer”. A photograph of the “old” sanctuary can be found in the Chapel, with the Hope-Jones organ being the centerpiece of the photo.
5/10: The organ that has graced FUMC’s sanctuary since 1960 is a grand old instrument with a great deal of history. In 1888, Grace Methodist Episcopal Church and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, both in Denver, placed orders for organs from the Roosevelt Organ Company in New York City. Grace Church used the organ for many decades. After World War II, with changing demographics, Grace Church relocated, and its downtown church building was sold to the First Assembly of God church. That congregation took it upon itself to “redecorate” the organ faÃ§ade by repainting the display pipes, which had been trimmed in gold leaf with dark blue-green banding at the top, with gold radiator paint and by applying several coats of floor varnish to the hand-oiled console. When the Assembly of God congregation also moved on, the building and contents were sold, with the organ being put into storage in 1958. At that time, FUMC was in the process of building a new sanctuary with plans to install a new organ. The availability of this organ was brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees and the choir director, Berton Coffin. A deal was struck to buy the organ for $3,000 plus $9,500 for moving, storage, cleaning and re-installation. Next week’s Fun Fact will relate this organ’s more recent history. Stay tuned.
5/17: Last week’s Fun Fact provided a history of our Roosevelt organ up to the time it was acquired by FUMC in 1959 at a cost of $3,000 for the organ and $9,500 for moving, storage, cleaning, and reinstallation. Moving, cleaning and reinstalling the organ in the new sanctuary was not easy. Electric hoists were used to lift the heavy pipes and windchests. The largest, center pipe required four strong people to set it in place. A volunteer crew of church members arrived with buckets and sponges to wipe away the coal dust, smoke, grime and grease. After reinstallation, tonal finishing and retuning needed to be undertaken. Since that time, the console itself has been refinished to bring back the beauty of the quarter-sawn oak case. In 2013, a full restoration of the organ was undertaken by Morel Pipe Organs. This 18-month piece-by-piece, pipe-by-pipe restoration was done in memory of Virginia Nesler Anderson and was made possible by a generous gift from Suzanne and David Hoover. Rededication of the organ took place in a musical worship service on October 12, 2014. Today, this magnificent instrument is valued at over $2,000,000.00.
5/24: Today’s Fun Fact focuses not on the organs that have been part of FUMC for over 100 years, but instead on a letter found in our Archives from one Junius Henderson which was addressed to the Official Board of the Boulder Methodist Episcopal Church, probably from the 1940s. The letter began “I wish, as a member of this church, and of the music committee, and of the official board, to make, in the kindest spirit, a very emphatic protest against an occurrence of Sunday, December 5, and most earnestly regret my inability to be present and make the protest in person.” Apparently, one of the “excellent, well-meaning brethren” abruptly stopped the organist in the midst of the recessional voluntary (postlude). Mr. Henderson wrote that, even if it was not intended, this action was a “direct insult to the organist,” for which an apology was owed. After noting that the voluntary is as much a part of the regular service as other elements, for anyone to stop the organist in this way “is in as bad taste as to attempt to stop the pastor when someone concludes he has said enough, or to stop the choir before it finishes the anthem.” Finally, he wrote that “some of us believe that we bought that organ and employ an artist as organist, not merely for the playing of accompaniments to the hymns and anthems, for which a much cheaper organ would have answered admirably, but rather for the purpose of furnishing fine instrumental music” to attract people to the church.
5/31: Rufus Baker served as the pastor of FUMC from 1937 until 1945. During a portion of his tenure, World War II raged in Europe and the Pacific. The Governor of Colorado during a part of that time was Ralph Carr. Governor Carr was a staunch believer that civil liberties meant the U.S. Bill of Rights and for him, that meant fighting for those principles at any cost. In Adam Schrager’s 2008 book The Principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story (Fulcrum Publishing), the author relates that Carr was convinced any talk of internment, confinement, imprisonment- whatever word was used to describe what was being suggested for American citizens of Japanese descent-was simply wrong. Schrager reports that “[f]rom the First Methodist Church in Boulder, Rufus Baker complimented the governor on his ‘reasoned sanity and good sense,’ which he felt ‘should appeal to every lover of America.’” This is just a small example of FUMC’s commitment to social justice. As a side note, Rufus Baker’s “preaching suit” was donated to FUMC by Jean Hodges (given to her by Rev. Baker) several years ago and is safely kept in the church archives.
The Fun Facts took a one-week vacation on Friday, 6/7.
6/14: Founded at Cleveland’s Central Methodist Church in May 1889, the Epworth League was a young adult association for people aged 18-35. It took its name from the village of Epworth in Lincolnshire, England, the birthplace of John and Charles Wesley.The Epworth League of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Boulder (now FUMC) was established on November 13, 1889. In May 1912, Jacob Adriance (first pastor of what is now FUMC) sent a letter to the church that said “[i]t has occurred to me that your Epworth league might like my photo. So I mail one to you for it. May each member of it richly enjoy in daily life communion with the Infinite One.” The purpose of the Epworth League was the “promotion of intelligent and virtual piety among the young people of the church” and was meant to encourage and cultivate Christ-centered character in young adults around the world through community building, missions, and spiritual growth. By the turn of the century (1900), the League claimed over 1.75 million members internationally. The original Epworth League continued until 1939. In recent years the League has been revived in some Methodist congregations. FUMC’s archives has the original Minutes of its Epworth League from November 13, 1889 – November 4, 1901.
6/21: The house that we know as The Heritage House has also been known as the Allen-Faus House and the Rachofsky-Faus House. Located on the corner of 15th and Spruce, it is currently home to the Attention Homes offices. It was originally constructed by Gay Allen in about 1874, probably as a rental house. Records vary as to whether this house was demolished and rebuilt or added on to by J. Levi Rachofsky, a pioneer merchant in Boulder who became its owner in 1885. In 1905, the house was sold to Jacob Faus and his family for $5,000.00. After several additional families owned the house, FUMC became the owner of the house in 1960. The original intention was to have the lot on which the house is located landscaped into a park.
6/28: The Heritage House (brick house east of the church) was purchased by FUMC in 1959 or 1960 depending on the source of information. For a number of years, the house hosted UMW’s Bargain Days/Rummage Sales and became known as the “Rummage Sale House.” In 1974, the City of Boulder determined that the house did not meet building code requirements for wiring and heating and could not be occupied until the requirements were met. That year, a six-year struggle over whether the house should be restored, sold and moved or demolished to make way for a park or parking lot began. This involved the congregation, the City Planning Board, the City Council, the Landmark Board and Historic Boulder. Long-time members Phyllis Olson and Ken Schmohe led the charge to save and restore the house in order to lease it as commercial office space.
7/5: The name “Heritage House” was coined in 1976, the year of Colorado’s centennial and the country’s bi-centennial. In 1979, another long-time member, Marshall Coon, offered the funds from the Edith Coon Memorial Fund as seed money for restoration purposes. Funds from the Esselstyn Estate Monies (another memorial fund) were also provided to jump-start the project. Finally, in January 1980, after years of controversy, during which time the building remained vacant, the congregation finally voted to restore the Heritage House. An open house of the fully restored and renovated Heritage House was held in December 1980. It has been fully occupied ever since. Phyllis Olson and Ken Schmohe co-authored a fascinating account of the history of the Heritage House, a copy of which is kept in FUMC’s archives.
7/26: Billy Sunday played professional baseball in the National League in the 1880’s. However, after he became a Christian, he left baseball and began a career as an evangelist. On July 19, 1909, Sunday made his first visit to Boulder and was so well-received, he agreed to return. And return he did! Beginning at the end of August 1909, he led five weeks of revival meetings. In order to accommodate the large crowds that were expected, the Boulder Evangelical Association, of which the Methodist Church was a part, used volunteer labor to build a 100,000 square foot wooden venue that seated 4,000 on the site of a former brick yard at High and 13th Streets. This site is now occupied by Casey Middle School. Local church choirs led the audiences in revival hymns that must have rocked the packed house. Sunday, who focused on sin and evil, called Boulder “a sinkhole of iniquity, crying out for redemption” (even the City residents had already outlawed liquor, one of his chief complaints). This was publicly disputed by one Boulder citizen who wrote “there is not a cleaner community on the face of the Earth than the city of Boulder” in a letter to the editor of the Camera. According to the Camera, a total of 1,560 Boulder residents were “converted” during these revival meetings, with the Methodist Church gaining 170 new members. Source: Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder County History: The Rev. Billy Sunday’s Rhetoric Polarized Boulder, by Silvia Pettem, 04/06/2018; updated 05/06/2019; and from FUMC’s archives.
8/2: Through the efforts of members of FUMC, the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado was established in 1919 under the directorship of Dr. Fred Aden. The first Student Center, located at 12th and Broadway, was purchased at the price of $10,500.00 in 1923. Its mission was to provide a “church home away from home” for Methodist and “Methodist preference” students. The program expanded and a new church home away from home was purchased in 1944. Costing $11,500.00, it was located at 1313 University Ave. As enrollment increased, even larger and more suitable facilities were needed. The new facility, located at 2400 University Heights Ave. (now 1290 Folsom), was consecrated in the spring of 1958 and houses the Wesley Foundation to this day. With the second floor housing the chapel, and the first floor consisting of an informal lounge, a kitchen, and offices, it has been used for worship and recreational/outreach purposes ever since. Our own Wally Finley served as the pastor/director for a number of years. Until recently, Roger Wolsey served as the pastor/director. During his tenure, the Center became home to many ventures, such as the Mosaic Gospel Choir, jazz and performing arts performances, yoga classes, and community outreach opportunities.
8/9: Adult Education has always been a hallmark of First United Methodist Church. In fact, although it is not documented, the church probably started as an adult education gathering in one of the saloons in early Boulder. This was also in keeping with John Wesley’s Class gatherings. Those who attend the adult education offerings do more than just expand their minds; they also put their faith into action. It was one of these classes nearly 64 years ago that birthed the idea of “Attention Not Detention” and led to the formation of Attention Homes. In the early 1980s when Chuck Schuster was the senior pastor, Dave and Suzanne Hoover developed a new format for adult education, and it was the precursor of today’s Forum. Forum covers a wide range of topics and is the primary venue for interaction with our theologians-in-residence. Forum not only deals with spiritual growth issues, but also with current events in both society and the church at large, and how they relate to our church. Forum is one of many adult education opportunities today, and adult education is not just on Sundays. A group called Sacred Bites meets for lunch at The Lazy Dog Saloon on Tuesdays, carrying on the tradition established 160 years ago. Come expand your mind and put your faith into action.
8/16: “First Church Library-A Short History” by Julie Powers.
The library opened in 1952, overseen by Elsie Teets who wrote that “she was grateful for the opportunity – it was a chance to maintain her sanity after the birth of twin boys in October, 1950!” She was chairman for 46 years in addition to doing library work for the Boulder Valley Schools. In its 67 years the library has had 5 locations. From Elsie’s notes:
1. A space off the second floor hallway, shared with Frances Bigelow, First Church’s first woman minister; later torn down for present sanctuary;
2. A small, cold vestibule at the southeast corner of the original stone building; also later torn down for sanctuary construction;
3. Second floor across from location #1; room also used for choir practice and Sunday school;
4. What is now the chapel, west of the sanctuary; shared space with a Scripture Center which sold Bibles;
5. Since 1998 in its current location – it switched spaces with the chapel – and with much appreciated custom built bookshelves.
As Elsie wrote in 2004, “The present location, #5, is the best one yet.” Fifteen years later the small but mighty library committee agrees!