First United Methodist Church
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Contact Us:
6201 Belcrest Road  
Hyattsville, MD 20782
Tel: (301) 927-6133

With this magnificent structure new programs for mission and ministry have been established.  As the first million dollar church complex within the Baltimore Washington Conference, for over 50 years the church has been host to numerous district and conference-wide events.

First Church has seen many changes over its two centuries, with membership and money fluctuating with the broader economy and population.  In the absence of a regular ordained preacher the strength of the earliest congregation was necessarily found in the laity, and today it is the laity—the members of First Church—whose commitment and faithfulness fuel the church’s many programs and initiatives.  Since the 1960s the church has supported the work of missionaries overseas, along with a host of programs that serve the local community.  For decades the hungry have been fed and the homeless housed through programs like Meals on Wheels, the Community Place Café, and Safe Haven.

As it was in the beginning, First Church is once again richly multi-cultural, but now church members are not just black and white—we also hail from a number of countries throughout Africa and the Caribbean.  The legacy of slavery and segregation is no where evident.  A well supported laity initiative led to the appointment of the Rev. Vincent Liburd as the first full-time associate pastor of color in 1978.  The Rev. Lou Shockley became the first African-American senior pastor in 1994, and when the Rev. Miguel Balderas joined the pastoral staff in 1998 he became the first Latino member of the pastoral staff.

Today First Church enjoys the energetic and visionary leadership of the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Wallace Penn.  Since coming to the church in July of 2015, the church has embarked on new directions in worship.  The Rev. Brett Pinter will join the staff as Associate Pastor in the summer of 2016, and in welcoming him, First Church welcomes as well new partnerships with students at the University of Maryland, College Park.

History abridged and updated by  

Rev Ian Straker

The History of First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville

In 1792 the Bladensburg Methodist Episcopal Church was formally admitted into the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  The approximately forty members who were charter members had grown out of the ministry of a number of itinerant Methodist preachers who made their way through the area, including Francis Asbury, who became the first bishop of the American Methodist movement.  The British born Asbury had offered himself to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, when Wesley sought preachers willing to go the British colonies in North America in order to “spread scriptural holiness” across the land.  In 1777 Asbury noted the first of his visits to the home of Shadrick Turner of Bladensburg.  From these humble beginnings today’s First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville had its start.

When the church was organized the Methodist Episcopal denomination was only eight years old, making First Church one of the oldest Methodist Churches in the country.  In its early years weekly responsibilities for worship and pastoral care rested with lay persons, who were organized into small classes for spiritual care and growth.  When the “circuit rider” or ordained preacher assigned to the area came through Bladensburg, he performed baptisms, administered holy communion and oversaw the organization of the congregation.  Over time as the denomination and the congregation grew so did the availability of an ordained preacher who became available on a weekly basis instead of on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

By 1850 church membership stood at 134: 74 white and “60 colored.”  In the monumental fight over slavery which led the denomination to split in 1845 into northern and southern factions, the Bladensburg congregation remained with the northern Methodist Episcopal Church.  In an effort to reinforce and universally apply the anti-slavery membership requirements of the denomination, in 1860 new rules caused a number of members of the Bladensburg Church to sever their connection with the denomination and align themselves with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  

The members remaining with the northern denomination became the Memorial Methodist Church which, after a merger with another church, became what is today the University United Methodist Church of College Park, MD.  The precursors of First Church aligned with the southern denomination and built a new sanctuary in Bladensburg before moving to Hyattsville on what is now 42nd Place.  It is likely that many of the “colored” members noted as church members in 1850 were slaves or servants of white members.  The congregation that moved to Hyattsville had African-American members until 1869, when those members, like most minority members of the southern Methodist church, formed a separate congregation that joined the newly formed Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (now known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church).  

The Hyattsville congregation then served “some 23 families” and had a total of 36 members.  Its first building in Hyattsville was built by Christopher C. Hyatt, the town’s founder, and it took the name First Methodist Episcopal Church, South, of Hyattsville.  It grew to a membership of 58 with 79 in Sunday School in 1897.  In 1903 it shared a pastor with a Methodist Church in Branchville, but became an independent charge in 1924 when its membership grew to 177 with a Sunday School of 313.

In 1939 the northern and southern Methodist churches joined with the Methodist Protestant Church to form The Methodist Church.  First Church adjusted its name accordingly and, persevering through the Great Depression grew to 441 members by 1940.  As growth continued, the church’s first full time associate pastor was hired in 1955.  During this period First Church actively supported the creation of additional churches, including what are now Ager United Methodist Church and Christ United Methodist Church.  As the county population increased, the congregation continued to grow to “about 2,700.”  Planning for a new building began; fundraising got started,  land was purchased at the intersection of Queens Chapel and Queensbury Roads, building plans were designed and approved, and contracts were awarded.  Groundbreaking for the new church took place in a snowstorm on December 11, 1960, and the first service was held on May 20, 1962.  With the completion of an addition to the church’s educational wing in 1965, the current church facility was finalized.

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