2015 Theme:“Seasons of Renewal"

The History of First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville

In the beginning, worship was held in homes. The earliest we know of was that of Shadrick and Sarah Turner "near Bladensburg," (actually six miles away, just west of present day Greenbelt). There is a sign marking the "Methodist Preaching Place," site of the Turner farm, which is located on the west side of Kenilworth Avenue just outside the beltway.

In 1776, Rev. Thomas Rankin, one of John Wesley's missionaries to America, held a Quarterly Meeting of the Frederick Circuit at Turner's; Rankin said "Our love feast began at 10, never to be forgotten." Francis Asbury came to the Turner home in 1777, "met the brethren of the Frederick Quarterly Meeting, where we were favored with the divine blessing." Seven more times Asbury came to Turner's. He called Shadrick his friend and recorded, "here are five children and a mother for Christ and for usefulness." The date 1777 is scribed in the stone over our Memorial Table.

In 1793, the Bladensburg Methodist Episcopal Church was admitted to membership in the Baltimore Conference, uniting several small congregations in the Bladensburg area which has been meeting in private homes in the area since 1760. Our church then, with a heritage that antedates the American Revolution, can properly be regarded as one of the oldest Methodist churches in America.

By 1800, the church had built its first sanctuary - a building located at what is now Annapolis Road and 46th Street in Bladensburg. This building, which in no longer in existence, served the church until 1859, when, using stones from the first structure, a new building was erected on Baltimore Avenue, then known as Water Street, just north of the present Peace Cross. This church building, later known as "Dent Chapel," continued to stand until the 1960s when, in an advanced state of deterioration, it was destroyed by fire.
However, times were difficult, both for the nation and for the Methodist Church. In 1860, the Methodist Church adopted what was known as "The New Chapter" at its General Conference. Under this Chapter, anyone who owned a slave could not be considered a member.

The "New Chapter" gave rise to disputes within the Bladensburg congregation, and in 1862 that body of members refusing to adhere to the non-slaveholding rule was dispossessed. Those members accepting the Chapter retained possession of the church building, leaving the dissenters, who were the forefathers of our present church, without a sanctuary and literally churchless. For a period of four years, from 1862 to 1866 both congregations, one with Northern sympathies, the other, our ancestor body, with Southern, functioned under the same name.

The latter group built, in 1863, its third sanctuary on what was then Sand Street (now 48th Street at Annapolis Road) in Bladensburg. Expanding in spite of these years of difficulty, our congregation outgrew the Sand Street Sanctuary, and by 1868 work was underway on the construction of a new, larger building on Locust Avenue (presently 42nd Place) in Hyattsville. This building became the church of the Hyatt family, the founders of the city of Hyattsville. With the move to Locust Avenue, our church became known as the First Methodist Episcopal Church, South, of Hyattsville.

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