First United Methodist Church of Bunnell
A Brief History
The first church in Flagler County, First United Methodist Church of Bunnell was established in 1909. J.F. Lambert and the Moody brothers, I.I. and George, collectively known as the Bunnell Development Company, built the first sanctuary, complete with bell tower, in 1909. The building was offered to the Florida Conference of the Methodist Church, and a new parsonage was included in the offer as well. According to a 1944 church history by F.L. Byrd, Reverend S.I. Hendricks of the Hastings Charge accepted it for the Methodists. Reverend W.A. Myres was appointed by the Methodist Conference as the first pastor. The first worship service in the new church was held on February 27, 1910. Charter members of the church were: Mr. and Mrs. I.I. Moody, Mr. and Mrs. George Moody, Mr. and Mrs. G.C. McArn, Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Heath, E.P. Edgerton, and Bessie Goodsley. By the end of 1910 there were 22 members.
A women’s group, first known as the “Willing Workers”, was established in 1929, led by the group’s first president Mrs. George Biddle. Within a few years the group had become the “Ladies Aid Society”. The women did the janitorial work in the church while their husbands took care of the yard. They furnished flowers for the altar and wood for the stove. Around 1935 Rev. W.T. Brantley’s wife Elsie began a women’s Sunday School class. This group became known as the Friendly Circle, and existed along side the Ladies Aid Society. Rev. Robert Carr, appointed to Bunnell in 1949, suggested the Ladies Aid Society become a unit of the Women’s Society for Christian Service, the conference women’s organization. Both groups have been active over the years, raising funds for all sorts of church projects: pews, an organ, dishes, parsonage furnishings, etc.
A new sanctuary was built in 1958. In 1971 the old sanctuary was demolished, and the church bell was put in storage. A new parsonage on Magnolia Street was completed in 1965. And classrooms and a fellowship hall were built in 1972. In 1978, at the death of Bill Deen, his wife Freda and his children Billy and Delores, wanted to build a bell tower in his memory. This was done with the help of the Building Committee, and the bell tower which stands on the church lawn contains both the old bell and a church sign. The bell peals out, telling us it is time to come to Sunday school and church. A second phase of classrooms completed in 1984, enclosed the courtyard.
Over the years persons and groups have donated many lovely memorials. The Friendly Circle, long an active group in the church, spearheaded the drive to purchase an organ for the sanctuary in 1976. The stained glass windows in the narthex are a gift of the family of Jeptha and Minnie Barber. The stained glass above the altar was given by the Buckles family, in memory of Daisy Buckles. In 2002 a prayer garden was planted in the courtyard and was dedicated in loving memory of Elfreda Bell and Pearl Forsythe Blakely.
The pastor and laity began a refocusing process in 2006 that gave them eyes to see what had been there all along: First UMC of Bunnell rediscovered its heart for the poor. Individuals were renewed in their walk with Jesus, and then were renewed as a community as they worked together to discern God’s vision for their future. They were given clarity with regard to their mission, and church members developed a strategic initiative that became their ministry focus for 2008-2009.
The church’s mission is to improve resources for the poor and homeless in Flagler County. The church has been a catalyst for change among other congregations in the county who are now working together to operate a cold-weather shelter. Following its first successful year operating the shelter, a vision team for was established and they formed their own 501c3 not-for-profit corporation known as “The Sheltering Tree.”
In 2009 the church transformed a small Wednesday night dinner program into Soul Café, a community dinner and scripture discussion. Again, with the help of volunteers and donations from the community and other congregations, we are building relationships with our neighbors and at the same times offering food and Christian fellowship. Together we are moving toward the vision God gave us and improving the lives of the poor and homeless—our neighbors—in Flagler County.
Also during this time, our food pantry, one of the longest-term outreach ministries of this congregation, was renamed and revamped. The C.A.R.E. (Christian Aid Response for Everyone) Cupboard is open every Wednesday and provides bread and non-perishable food items to neighbors in need; food items are donated by several grocery stores, other congregations, and church members. We are grateful to the numerous volunteers who pick up the bread and grocery donations, and who staff the food pantry and welcome all who come.
At this year’s 100th anniversary of the church, the following persons were recognized as having been members of the church for more than 50 years:
Gordon Buckles Wanda Mercer
Maxine Buckles Edyth Robertson
Kathy Anderson Clegg Doris Tucker
Ria Allen Johnston Leslie Tucker
Audrey Barber McKnight Martin Tucker
Ray Mercer Marsha Zeller
Of these persons, two are celebrating more than 75 years of church membership:
Ria Allen Johnston and Audrey Barber McKnight.
First United Methodist Church has stood for 100 years as a spiritual home to many residents of the City of Bunnell and the surrounding county. We continue to be a church overflowing with God’s love. We are passionate about our love for Jesus and our desire to turn the world upside down with radical acts of service and compassion.
Bunnell, May 11, A.D. 2010
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