The story of First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh began with the formation of a Methodist Society in 1796. The first church building was erected in downtown Pittsburgh in 1810, and it was not until 1893 that the cornerstone was laid for the current building at Center Ave. and S. Aiken Ave. Since the days of John Wesley, United Methodism has called its people to enact social justice, to relieve suffering, and to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The heritage of First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh is defined by this mandate. The story of the church’s commitment to putting faith into practice is a reflection of the Wesleyan imperative.
In the early years, support was raised for such concerns as Allegheny College, a China Chapel, an Irish Fund, and “destitution in Mississippi.” The role of women in the ministry of the church outpaced that of the nation. Petitions were signed and letters written to representatives in Washington seeking equal rights for women as well as waging battles against “evils” such as child labor and opium. The Women’s Home Missionary Society was formed to “stop the terrible waste of life and meet the needs of the underprivileged people in our midst.”
The church has been blessed with a legacy of excellent preaching and strong leadership that led people into committed membership. A significant music ministry that continues to this date has characterized our presence in the community. The prominence of Christian Education is evidenced by the fact that in 1847, the church had 34 classes for all ages. In 1935, in addition to the Church School Superintendent, our church maintained eight division superintendents of Christian Education, as well as directors of the Church School Orchestra.
Dr. Robert Howe, Senior Minister in 1955, is quoted at the dedication of the Educational Building saying: “This building that we have raised to God’s name, let it be filled with human sounds: children laughing at the sheer joy of being alive – the uncontrolled and boisterous roughhouse of boys and girls with more energy than their small bodies can contain – the sound of voices in dispute as youth climbs upward, spiritually digging out their own toe holds of belief. Let there be music and happy feet and quiet serenity of the aged just enjoying their elder years. Let there be no dead silence in this building, but the sound of human beings praying to God through work and service – through fun and worship.”
From the roots of this marvelous ministry we remember the past and move into the future!