The Third Church Building
The fire hastened plans that were already underway to build a new church. Five years before the fire, the First Methodist church had purchased property at South Park and Academy Streets from the Emma Ransom estate. While not anticipating the need for a speedy move to this property, the trustees had studied preliminary sketches for a thoroughly modern church structure and church house on the site. These plans now went into high gear.
Ground was broken for the new sanctuary, and a cornerstone was laid on 4 December 1927. The completed church was dedicated in March of 1929. It has a rich Gothic exterior of Bedford stone, an interior narthex, impressive chancel, lofty timbered ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows. When completed, it was another church in the cluster that had begun to ring Bronson Park.
As were the other churches in the city, First Methodist Church was involved in outreach to the community. It was responsible for the construction of the Patwood Project, which provided housing on the city's north side for persons needing assistance. In 1979, the church began a food pantry for the benefit of people having emergency food problems. Help was sought from other downtown churches, and the name was changed to Bronson Park Food Pantry. This grew into the organization now known as Loaves and Fishes, which meets a continuing need in the city. The Methodists also helped in the relocation of refugee families from such far-flung places as Latvia, Hungary, Russia, Poland, and Viet Nam.
Assisting New Methodist Congregations
First Methodist has a tradition of helping new congregations get started. As early as 1882, it raised funds to help erect a church in Comstock, and one on the north side of Kalamazoo. A lot on West North Street was purchased for the Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church, which served this area for 90 years. Aid was also given throughout the years to establish churches in Richland, the East Main and Stockbridge Methodist Churches, the Wilson Memorial Church at Recreation Park, as well as the Westwood and Sunnyside Churches.