When It All Began
By the time Dowagiac was born a city in 1848, Rev. Robert Watson, a Methodist local pastor, had already begun preaching, holding services in the schoolhouse and occasionally in the hotel ballroom. Soon, the Dowagiac congregation became an appointment on the Edwardsburg Circuit, services taking place on Sunday evenings. At the annual conference of 1850, the Wayne Circuit was organized and the DowagiacMethodistChurch included in it. In 1852 the circuit was renamed the Dowagiac Circuit.
A Board of Trustees was formed in 1855 and a lot purchased for the purpose of building a Methodist house of worship in Dowagiac. Construction of the first church building, a white wooden structure was completed in 1859 on the site of the former schoolhouse, a triangular lot bordered by Commercial and Division Streets and New York Avenue, at a cost of $3,000.
At the turn of the century it was decided there was need for a building that would be “modern in its conveniences, large enough to comfortably seat its membership for years to come, and handsome enough to please the most exacting.” The church building was completely remodeled and then veneered with 70,000 pressed bricks in 1906. By the 1960’s the church became too crowded for its building. Arrangements were made to use the entire second floor of the Oppenheim building on S. Front and Commercial Streets for Sunday school classrooms.
Toward New Horizons
As the church continued to grow, it became obvious that new facilities would be necessary. Land was purchased in 1968, plans approved in 1971, and building began. The last worship service at the original site was held May 15, 1974. That building is still in use as the home of the Beckwith Theatre.
On May 22, 1974, the entire congregation, carrying various church and altar items marched to the new facilities. The new church building was dedicated to God and use in His Kingdom September 14, 1975. The congregation continued to grow causing the congregation to remodel, expanding the sanctuary and adding office and other needed space. The present building was consecrated in 1995.
A Community of Faith dedicated to know, love, obey and enjoy God.
In 2013, The First UMC of Dowagiac adopted as its mission statement: Know, Grow and Go.
To Know God more through the small groups and studies we offer.
To Grow in Christ by worshiping together and sharing our faith with one another.
To then Go out into the community and share our faith with others as we work with, meet with and share our neighborhoods with.
While most of what we know about the history of Dowagiac First is related to its building, it is apparent that from its beginning to the present, our church was already striving to live into that mission as the demonstration of God’s presence in our community. It is now our desire to intentionally live into what we understand as God’s purpose for us by inviting others to join us in this mission.
FirstChurch is a visionary church that seeks to know and do God’s will. We are constantly seeking ways for God’s love to become real to the people we serve. In that process, God’s love sparks a passion in His people to extend His love to others.
Growth and a changing culture means we must constantly examine and be willing to redefine ourselves. We are expanding the use of technology and multi-media in worship, and bringing in a mix of the traditional songs of our past with the energy of the songs of today that still share a message of hope.
As the church has grown it has become easy for far too many people to attend services without being connected in any meaningful way. A broader vision of ministry is emerging. Without losing the community-centered appeal of a smaller church, we are moving toward a renewed emphasis on nurturing believers, recapturing a spirit of “ownership” by a core of dedicated people, and a greater emphasis on servanthood, stewardship of our resources, and the utilization of our spiritual gifts. In addition, we are developing a passion for those who are uncommitted and seeking a church home.
Our highest calling is to be an authentic, biblically functioning community of believers. We invite you to journey with us.