Methodism in America was formalized in 1784 in Baltimore, Maryland, but it was not until March 11, 1840, that a group worshiping in an “upper room of the comer house on Yellow Row” (now Ninth Street) was organized in Laurel in the name of The Methodist Episcopal Church. They would not have a house of worship until two years later.
In 1842, The Laurel Mill Company, established by the Snowden Family, presented a “gift of stone and a grant of land” to those early Methodists as a site for their first meeting house. Known as Old Stone Church, it became the first house of worship in Laurel. It was set back from Ninth Street between Montgomery and Main streets. Its ruins were bulldozed away in the 1950’s.
The Old Stone Church
Laurel Methodists later split when slavery became an issue and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, came into being. In 1866 the so-called Southern Methodists in Laurel built their own church on Main Street opposite Seventh Street. It was known as the Frame Church to distinguish it from the old Stone Church. They moved in 1912 into a new church on Montgomery Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets. It was known as Trinity M.E. Church, South.
Old Stone Church continued to house The Methodist Episcopal Church members until 1884 when they moved into a new sanctuary at 424 Main Street. It was named Centenary M.E. Church in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Methodism in America. Trinity and Centenary continued to worship separately until October 5, 1941, when the two congregations began joint worship in the Centenary church.
Centenary M.E. Church
Mergers among Methodist and other churches caused the local church to change its name from Centenary Methodist Episcopal to First Methodist Church and later to First United Methodist Church.
The original church on Main Street was 30 feet wide and 50 feet deep. In 1909 the east wing was added; a vestibule was built; major additions were made in 1953 and 1962 to expand education and fellowship facilities; and property was acquired on the southeast corner of Fifth and Main streets for parking facilities. In recent years the chancel area has been changed; air conditioning installed in the sanctuary and the floor replaced; and facilities for the disabled provided.
An adjoining parsonage, built in 1893, was raised in 1984 and the space converted to a Memorial Garden. Parsonages are now located at 427 Prince George Street and 419 Prince George Street. Trinity Wesleyan Retreat Center at 7201 Old Sandy Spring Road and the property at 425 Prince George Street are recent additions to church facilities. In 1990, the church observed 150 years of Methodism in Laurel in a year-long celebration, and published a history covering the period of 1840-1990.
Further expansion of the Sanctuary and education wing began with a ground breaking ceremony on April 25, 1999. Completion of the project took nearly two years. On Sunday, February 18, 2001, First UMC celebrated the completion of the newly renovated Sanctuary with a worship service. Present and former pastors led over 300 members and guests in thanking God for His grace and protection during the construction project.