Our History

The Story of First United Methodist Church of Sarasota

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Old church from Mark
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The “First Church” in the Village of Sarasota, Florida, was organized as the Methodist Episcopal Church South in October 1891. Today First United Methodist Church is the only Sarasota organization still in existence since 1891. First United Methodist Church parallels the history of the City of Sarasota. 

The first services were held in a little school building on Main Street with Rev. E. F. Gates, a circuit rider on horseback, serving as the first pastor. The Reverend Will Tresca was sent to formally organize the church, gathering 12 members in a Main Street storeroom for the signing of the Church Charter. Property on the southeast corner of Pineapple Avenue and Main Street at Five Points was purchased for the price of $40. The first church building was erected at Five Points in “the heart of the city” in 1893.

1891 - A New Building

In 1914 an impressive brick Greek temple-style church was built at the present Pineapple Avenue location. First United Methodist Church grew through both the prosperity of the Florida real estate boom and then the bust of the Great Depression. Through many trials the congregation thrived in worship, ministry, and mission.

1914 -  WWII

First United Methodist Church grew rapidly during the years following World War II. Soon there was a need for a new sanctuary. In 1953 and 1954, services began at the city’s Municipal Auditorium due to overcrowding in the small sanctuary. On Christmas Day, 1955, services were held in the new, beautiful colonial-style sanctuary. The mortgage was burned in a mere 5 years. A new education building with its fellowship hall was built in 1970. A new office complex with youth hall and chapel was completed in 1983.

1955 - Renovations and the Future

In the fall of 2010 First United Methodist Church (affectionately called First Church) embarked on the Build on This Rock campaign for the renovation of its sanctuary, points of entry, and gathering spaces for the congregation and community outreach in preparation for another century of ministry.

Thanksgiving Sunday, November 27, 2011, First Church held its first services in the newly renovated historic sanctuary accentuated with modern-day attributes for reverent worship and relevant outreach. A prayer garden courtyard with columbarium was added to connect our sacred spaces, congregation and community, and provides a lovely setting for memorial services and outdoor gatherings.


In addition to offerings of vibrant worship expressions and Christian life enrichment, First UMC encourages the greater Sarasota community through inspiring Music Fine Arts performances and engaging civic, cultural, and communal conversations. When the church celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2016, First Church dedicated itself to a future of ministry in worship and in outreach to the community we seek to serve as we fulfill our mission.

Recently, as some other United Methodist churches have turned away from their history and disaffiliated from the denomination, First United Methodist Church of Sarasota has reaffirmed its connection with other UM churches across the country and around the world. While it may be an "old southern church ," its current membership and leadership have pledged to welcome people from all cultures and backgrounds to worship within its chapel and sanctuary. God loves all people, and so do we!