Get a glimpse into our history with this slideshow of some old photos we have.
Then, if you are a history buff, you may wish to scroll further down for a narrative of our church's history.
Portland United Methodist Church: The History of Our Church
Our congregation is one among 39,000 United Methodist Churches located in the USA, with 10 million members nationwide. Through the World Methodist Council located in Lake Junaluska, NC, the United Methodist Church is linked into a world-wide communion of nearly 40 million Christians. Methodism first arrived in the Portland area when itinerant Methodist preachers evangelized among the Indians. In 1838, two "Circuit Riders" came to the mouth of the Looking Glass River where it empties into the Grand River. Then in 1834 the first white settler came. Philo Bogue, one of Portland's earliest settlers, hosted early gatherings at his home. He was a Methodist and Methodism has continued here ever since. In 1838 there were enough members to organize a class. The first "Class Meeting" of five members attended. The members met at the log school house on the west side of the Grand River. Eventually the first pastor, Rev. Larmon Chatfield, was appointed here in 1838. He later made Portland his home and is buried in the Portland Cemetery. In 1851 the Methodists built a parsonage and meetings were held there. We would then purchase the "Red School" which was located on James Street for $20 and moved it to the corner of Bridge and Elm Streets. This would be used as a chapel at a cost of $250 and was used for the next five years. It was then sold and moved to Elm Street.
The white frame church built in 1877, and was 40 ft. by 70 ft. It was built in 1866 at a cost of $7,500. This building was dedicated on Oct. 20 and 21 of 1868. The bell was installed in 1872, and weighed 1,200 pounds. This bell still rings every Sunday to this day. in 1879 a new parsonage was built, and the church had about 300 members. The Sunday School had 115 students with 15 teachers, and the Sunday School Library had 500 volumes. On August 18, 1912, the white-framed church was hit by lightning and burned to the ground. While waiting for a new building, the church met at the then-unused Universalist Church, which was located at the corner of James and Warren Streets.
The present church was built in 1914 at a cost of $25,000. The cornerstone was laid on July 17, 1913, and the building was dedicated on March 29, 1914 by the district superintendent. Rev. W. W, Slee was pastor at the time. In 1916, the church had a membership of 225. There was an active Sunday School, Epworth League for Young People, Women's Foreign Missionary Society, Women's Home Missionary Society, and a Ladies Aid Society. In 1937 a pipe organ was installed at a cost of $2,150. This was during the Ministry of Rev. Warren Brown. The year 1963 was the 125th Anniversary of the first class meeting. This year saw the start of a new building campaign with the addition of the educational wing in 1964. The Sanctuary was also remodeled. Rev. Harold Homer was the pastor during this time. Sunday, May 23, 1976 was "Heritage Sunday", and the Church honored all members who had belonged to the church for 50 years or more.
In 1986, Rev. Dale Crawford joined the church as Pastor in February. But in October in that same year, Rev. Crawford passed away in a car accident while serving on a mission trip in Ghana. The church would then invite Rev. Stan Finkbeiner to lead the church. Pastor Stan led the church through another difficult time. In 1986, a fire broke out in the church bell tower. This would cause damage to the Sanctuary and to the organ. Services would be held in the basement until the Sanctuary was redesigned.
As we came closer and closer to the 21st century, new traditions would be made. Pastor Elaine Bunker would start the Annual Memorial Day BBQ, and the Annual Turkey Dinner was created as well. Pastor Scott Otis brought us our contemporary service, to go along with our traditional service. 2007 would see a new building project with Rev. Greg Wolfe. The church would receive a new Welcome Center, floor tiles, and a new elevator. Now anyone can access all areas of the church. Rev. Keith Treman celebrated the 175th anniversary in the church with the congregation in 2013. In 2015 the church was one of many buildings damaged by a EF1 Tornado that hit Portland. During the eight month recover, the church met at the Portland Playhouse on Maple Street. The building was able to be restored.
Today this congregation is continuing to transform lives, families, and our world through Jesus Christ by having weekly services, Bible study, Sunday School, youth group, and more. Join us to become a part of our history! To learn more about our history, check out the church library. There are several photo albums filled with information, and we are excited to share them with you. We ask that the books stay in the library to protect the photos. They are not optional to check out.
Timeline of PUMC History
1884 - Square windows were replaced with Stained Glass in the original building
1905-1908 - Rev. Robinson was influential in ridding Portland of saloons
1912 - Lightning strikes steeple of the original building and it was completely destroyed
1912-1914 - Our current building is built, dedicated, and opened
1919 - Centennial year for Michigan Methodists
1934 - Go-Getters Adult Sunday School is formed, hearing aids are installed, and Cathedral Chimes are installed fore $200
1937 - A new pipe organ is installed for $2,150
1939 - In May, unification of the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, and Methodist Protestant
1954 - Church kitchen is remodeled, and the outdoor sign is built
1959 - Under the mission of Rev. Treat, educational and fellowship addition was built, and the sanctuary was renovated
1968 - Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren join to form the United Methodist Church
1973 - Under Rev. Harold Homer's leadership, we were hosts to Lay Witness Mission
1977 - New parsonage was purchased for $44,500
1978 - Pastor Dow Chamberlain held morning prayer, at 8:30, Mondays-Fridays
1979 - Trustees authorized the spending of endowment funds to redecorate chancel and nave, organ is improved, and parsonage payments are complete
1986 - Rev. Evans serves after the resignation of Rev. Chamberlain. In February, Rev. Dale Crawford became pastor. While on a trip to Ghana, Africa, he passed away in a automobile accident. Rev. Evans returns to serve as interim pastor.
1988 - 150 years of Methodism in Portland is celebrated, with special services throughout the month of October.
1988 - A fire causes damage to the church and the 75 year old organ. Services are held in the basement until March of 1989
2000 - Rev. Scott Ottis creates two services: A traditional service at 9 and a contemporary service at 11:15
2007 - Rev. Greg Wolfe renovates the church, adding an elevator and making the church handicap-accessible in all areas of church property
2013 - PUMC celebrates 175th years of Methodism in Portland. To celebrate, old church documents were read once a month, and at each service throughout the year every pastor was recognized
2015 - A EF-1 Tornado comes through the city of Portland on June 22 and damages 4 local churches, including the Methodist church. Rev. Keith Treman, Rev. Tish Bowman, and the PAMA work together to keep the church and community safe. Rev. Bowman helped renovate the church, and the United Methodists would worship at the Portland Civic Players building along with the Baptist church. The church would open on February 21
2020 - Rev. Tish Bowman hosts the church's first ever online sermons/worship. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused nearly all buildings to close for an extended period of time.
Present Day - “Transforming Lives, Families, and Our World through Jesus Christ”