As told by Rev. Ira E. Williams, Jr.,
History of our Church
The Original Sanctuary
The coming of the railroad to Albuquerque in 1879 changed the picture for Protestant work in New Mexico. On November 1, 1879, Reverend N. Hewett Gale was sent to Albuquerque to start a Methodist congregation. On April 18, 1880, in the Bernalillo County Courthouse in Old Albuquerque, Gale, along with five charter members and Reverend Harwood, the Superintendent of Missions and Presiding Elder of the District, officially organized the First Methodist Episcopal Church.
Original Sanctuary, c. 1894. Rev. A.W. Adkinson in front
Early services were in Old Town. Mrs. Alice Rutherford Oestreich, the first child to be baptized when the church was built in 1880, recalled to me in 1962 that her parents moved to Albuquerque in 1880, and were quite disconcerted to discover that the only services for Methodists were held in a saloon in Old Town with those attending seated on nail kegs. Reverend Gale and a Congregational minister, Reverend J.M. Ashley, then arranged for a room to be used jointly by their members at a shared expense.
In 1880, during Reverend Gale’s pastorate, construction was begun on a small adobe chapel (34 by 54 feet), that was erected at Third Street and Lead Avenue, where the present stone church now stands. Construction of the original adobe structure was completed in 1881 but was not dedicated until September 27, 1885. “The delay was due to the established policy of Methodist Churches of not dedicating a building for worship until the building is free of the original debt.” Albuquerque Journal, November 5, 1955.
Old Sanctuary on Easter Sunday, mid-1910's
The "Old" Sanctuary
As the congregation grew in the following years, it became apparent that the original church building was no longer adequate to accommodate the congregation. In 1904, the original little adobe church was torn down to make room for the current structure that occupies the northeast corner of the property. On January 8, 1905, this larger stone church, which still stands at Third and Lead, was dedicated.
Since the construction of another new sanctuary in 1955, which occupies the west side of the block, the 1905 structure has continued to serve as an all-purpose Fellowship Hall. The windows are a special treasure, reportedly designed by a student of the style of Louis Tiffany. The window inside the archives room is unique. It was given by members of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic, whose symbols are shown in the panels. The window also reflects the Methodist Church in America that was divided preceding the Civil War into a Northern and a Southern branch over the issue of slavery. First Methodist Church was established by members of the Northern Methodist Episcopal Church.
The "New" Sanctuary
Ground was broken on Sunday, October 10, 1954, for the majestic cruciform sanctuary on the west side of the block. Still known as the “new church,” this awe-inspiring house of worship was dedicated on November 6, 1955. Constructed in the shape of the cross, the Spanish Colonial Revival style sanctuary is reflective of our unique southwestern cultures, incorporating features such as the red clay tile roof and turquoise-colored designs on the massive ceiling beams. The more traditional architecture of the Education Building shares some elements of the same south-western style. Such as numerous arched doorways and red clay tile roof.
Old Sanctuary Photo Courtesy of:
Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church , “Mission Photograph
Album - Cities #4 page 0197,” UMC Digital Galleries, accessed October 28,