Central United Methodist Church
Thursday, October 19, 2017
A Place to Begin...Belong...Become

Our History

In 1887, our church began life as a mission church, originally called the Tourist Memorial Mission Church.  It was located on East Las Vegas Street in Colorado Springs.  Reverend W. E. McCormick, a pioneer minister who was living in Colorado Springs, founded it.  At this time the church was composed primarily of “United Brethren in Christ” folks, but the church was not yet chartered.

             Reverend J. Oliver became the pastor in 1895.  At the same time, the church was chartered with the Conference, and its name was changed to Tourist Memorial United Brethren in Christ Church.

             The church remained on Las Vegas Street for a few years and then moved to the upper floor of an old store building on the corner of Costilla and Tejon.  Property was later purchased at 417 S. Cascade, and a frame church/parsonage was built.  This church was later sold to the Sons of Israel.

             During the year 1911, Reverend Henry Kohler was appointed as pastor.  After selling the property to the Sons of Israel, another parcel of property at the corner of South Nevada and East Vermijo Street was purchased for $6,000.  The congregation consisted of 200 members at the time.  While the basement was being dug, a big tent was placed on the lot for church services.  Several times the tent was damaged by strong winds, but the women of the church brought their sewing machines, heavy cord and needles, and repaired the tent prior to Sunday services.

             From 1911 – 1915 all went well, until problems erupted within the congregation and divided the church.  A large percentage of the membership left, leaving only 27 families who worshipped in the covered basement under the supervision of Dr. R. J. ParretLater, a license to preach was issued to Reverend I. A. Chivington.  He remained pastor until 1916.

             In June 1916, Reverend W. G. Schaefer, who had just graduated from Bonebrake Seminary and been ordained an elder, was sent to become the pastor.  The church was still called the TouristMemorialChurch, but because of the extended period of time the basement stood unfinished, the local community dubbed it “The Hole-in-the-Ground Church.”

             A plea went out from Rev. Schaefer and the church members to the community to join in the campaign to “Buy a Brick” so that church construction could be completed. Many people bought bricks … 200,000 of them! With many gifts and a loan from the Church Erection Society of Dayton, Ohio, the church was completed, along with a five-room parsonage. That facility still stands today at Nevada and Vermijo, across from the Pioneers Museum.

             During 1916, the name was changed to the First United Brethren in Christ Church. Membership grew under the leadership of Rev. and Mrs. Schaefer. On the first and third Thursday of each month, the Ladies Aid Society served “Penny Dinners,” which later became known as the famous “Thursday Chicken Pie Dinners.” From a penny, the price escalated to 25 cents per serving. The dinners paid for many redecorating projects, helped the operating fund, and contributed to missions.

             By 1942 many people were participating in the life of the church. Sunday School membership was 475, and church membership was 700. To help overcome the crowded conditions, Administrative Board voted to purchase Green Gables, a home two doors north of the church, for $8,500, to be used as an educational wing.

             In 1946 the Evangelical and the United Brethren denominations merged, and the church’s name became First Evangelical United Brethren Church.

             In 1950, after selling Green Gables for $60,000, the Administrative Board voted to build an educational wing on the east side of the church. The new addition was dedicated as the “Schaefer Christian Education Unit” in 1952.

On May 5, 1957, a celebration of "This Is Your Life" was held in honor of Dr. and Mrs. W. G. Schaefer, who was retiring.  He served the church for 41 years.

            In June 1957, Reverend George L. and Mrs. Helen Edie were appointed to the church during the Annual Conference in Sterling, Colorado.  At this time, we were conducting two church services, fellowship for all age levels, Women's Society of World Service, Children, Youth, and Adult choirs, and home prayer group meetings.

            Reverend Bruce Grauberger was appointed as an Associate Pastor in 1958.  Membership continued to grow.  In 1960, the church sanctuary was redecorated and remodeled.  The Edies were appointed to the First EUB Church in Aurora, Colorado, during 1963, and Reverend Paul Gamber (and family) became our new pastor. 

            At the General Conference in 1968, held in Dallas, Texas, the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Churches merged, and the new denomination was named the United Methodist Church.  Because First United Methodist Church of Colorado Springs had been established longer ago, we were asked to change our name.  Members submitted suggestions, a vote was taken, and in March of 1968 we became known as Central United Methodist Church.

            At this time, many of our members were moving to the northeast part of the city, and our membership was beginning to drop.  In 1970 Reverend Tom Bennanzar and family were appointed to Central, upon the retirement of Reverend Gamber.   At the same time, the Administrative Board, Rocky Mountain Conference, and church members were discussing a move for our church from the downtown area.

            In June 1971, Reverend Keith Spahr was appointed to the church.  By this time, a search for a new location had become serious, and plans were made to sell the building and buy property in a new area.  A "For Sale" sign was placed in front of the facility, and we were beginning a new era in the life of the church.  It was sold to the PoliceTrainingAcademy in 1973.  In the meantime, services were held in the gym of Roosevelt Elementary School.  Property at the corner of Murray and Pikes Peak was given to us by the Rocky Mountain Conference, but after further study it was determined this property would not meet our needs and requirements.

In December 1975 there was a temporary move to the Seventh Day Adventist School at 5300 Palmer Park Blvd. while we worked on acquiring property north of Palmer Park Boulevard.  Neighbors in the area opposed having a church built near that vicinity; so consequently 2 ¾ acres were purchased at Emory Circle and Galley Road.  In September 1976 we moved again, this time to Wilson Elementary School, remaining there until the sanctuary was completed at our new home, 4373 Galley Road.

            The first service in our new sanctuary on Christmas Eve, 1976, was a most memorable celebration! It was truly a new beginning.  We began to grow immediately. Children's Sunday School classes were held behind dividers in the sanctuary, along with adult classes.  Youth classes took place in the secretary’s and pastor's offices.

            In April 1984 construction began on the Fellowship Hall.  Many functions, including the children's Sunday School classes, were held there for 7½ years.  An educational unit was placed on the list of priorities. Reverend Spahr served as  pastor for 17 years and was then appointed to First United Methodist Church in Ogden, Utah.

            Reverend Marvin Vose, his wife Caroline, and two children were welcomed on July 1, 1988.  We experienced growth in worship and Sunday School.  New adult classes were organized.  Children's choir and three bell ringer choirs, plus a very active chancel choir, were in progress.  In 1990 we celebrated “75 Years of Ministry,” choosing to acknowledge 1915, when “our first real building – or basement – was completed” as the year that would hereafter be commemorated as the church’s ‘birthday.’

A "Building Together in Faith" campaign was launched with plans for a new educational wing. We also decided to remodel both the chancel area and Fellowship Hall.  One of the highlights of that campaign occurred when the entire congregation had their names written on small stones and they were able to gather around and place the stones in a bucket that was used to mix the first batch of cement.  That cement was then used to lay the foundation of the Educational Wing.  What an exciting day February 7, 1993, was as we moved our Sunday School classes into their new classrooms.  Consecration Sunday was held on March 21, 1993, with Bishop Mary Ann Swenson delivering the morning message.  Central was "on the move" again, but this time we remained at home, building together in Christ.

In June 1994, Reverend Vose was appointed as the District Superintendent of the Peaks and Plains District for the Rocky Mountain Conference.  We said good-bye to the Vose family, and welcomed Reverend George "Skip" Perry, his wife Mary and their two children. Looking forward to the year 2000 and our 85th birthday, we adopted a Vision Statement that read:  God is calling Central United Methodist Church to establish such a dynamic and vital ‘Center of Caring’ that those seeking Christian fellowship and family are drawn to this place where God is joyfully celebrated as faithful and alive. 

From 1994 until 1998, we also conducted a "Revisioning Campaign", continued small group Tender Loving Care (TLC) Bible Study groups in individual homes, introduced a contemporary  (third) service during Sunday morning worship, and in the beginning of 1999, we also developed a Tele-Care ministry program under the direction of Pastor Skip Perry.

            In July 1999, Reverend Richmond "Rich" Stoakes and his wife Susan began their tenure at Central United Methodist Church.  That same year Pastor Stoakes commissioned the first group of Stephen Ministers, individuals who had completed 55 hours of training to provide one-on-one care and support for members of the church struggling with grief, illness, loss, etc.  Pastor Stoakes and his wife Susan were involved in all aspects of Central’s ministry. 

             For many years Central United Methodist Church had a tradition of releasing white balloons on Easter Morning.  Children put their names and the church’s address inside a balloon; then released them to see which one would travel the greatest distance.  On Easter Sunday, beginning in 2002, we had our first ever youth-led Sunrise Service.  Fifty-five people attended, with breakfast following the celebration.

             The year 2002 and 2003 were great years of growth, innovation, challenges, and changes.  Central United Methodist Church recognized two of their 50-year members for their many contributions and involvement in the church by renaming a portion of the church as the “Paul and Lucille Sams Christian Education Wing”

A visioning process that began in 2000 called Focus 21 resulted in identifying several priority items for the church including a van, air conditioning, and an associate pastor.  We got the much needed air conditioner in the sanctuary, and Bob Teets graciously donated a van for ministerial and transportation needs.  Our prayers and a lot of hard work were rewarded when Reverend Judy Owsley was hired in February 2003.  She and her husband Bud joined us from First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs, and they both immediately became a vital part of our ministry.  As our Minister of Congregational Development, Rev. Judy fostered groups for young adults, families with children (Family Fridays), grief recovery, and Bible study, as well as leading our Stephen Ministry program.

            A special “Memorial Book” was created in 2003 to record contributions that friends of Central have donated or bequeathed to the church as perpetual remembrance of loved ones.

            In 2003, Pastor Stoakes was appointed to serve the United Methodist Church of Rifle, CO, and we reluctantly bid them farewell.  Reverend Granville D. Smythe, Jr. and his wife Charlene joined us in July 2003, enriching our church with their experience, vitality, and spirituality. Charlene was an active participant in the ministry of Central prior to receiving an appointment in 2005, as a local pastor, to serve the Bethel UMC and also as a chaplain at the Youthful Offender System, both in Pueblo, CO.

            In October 2004, Rev Judy Owsley made her 12th trip to Novgorod, Russia, representing the Russia Initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries.  Central UMC had joined the Rocky Mountain Russia Initiative as a partner church in September 2003.

            Numerous improvements were made to our church home in 2004, including the painting of the exterior of the building, installation of a drainage system to remove water from the south side of the church, a new roof, improved interior signage, and a new fence on the west side.

During 2005 and 2006 congregational support of missions increased remarkably, and our church entered a covenant relationship with Carol Partridge, a United Methodist  missionary in Macedonia.  The music department reorganized with new groups and a lighter schedule for the choir, all of which brought energy and inspiration to enhance both worship services. 

            Several new programs and ministries were begun, including “Caring Friends” who keep in touch with the WAVES (Wise and Valued Elders), Kids of the Kingdom (a children’s choir), Young Men’s Bible Study, and “Lunch and Lessons” (a once-a-month luncheon with excellent speakers sharing a Bible-based talk. Meals were prepared by volunteer chefs and served at beautifully decorated tables.)

            Christmas 2005 was most memorable with the special program, “The Grumpy Shepherd,” written by Lucille Sams and presented by preschoolers through senior high.

       Heritage Sunday 2006 featured the presentation of a quilt made in the early 1930s with the names of members embroidered on the squares.  Lucille Sams wrote a short historical drama to introduce the quilt, which had been found stored in a trunk belonging to longtime members.

The Permanent Endowment Fund (PEF) of Central United Methodist Church was established during 2006 and approved by the Charge Conference on February 20, 2007.  Central UMC established the PEF as a major part of its long-range financial plan.  The Endowment Fund’s purpose is to provide members and friends opportunities to make charitable gifts to Central that will become a permanent endowment of financial support for missions and ministries not a part of the annual operating budget of the church. Because only the accrued interest can be spent while the principle continues to grow, this is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

            Two lasting and inspirational improvements were completed in early 2007.  Gifts by the Burkholder Memorial Fund made possible the installation of porcelain tile in three entryways and included a beautiful cross and flame emblem created in tile at the south entrance. A magnificent carillon, given by the Sams family, was first heard in the church and throughout the neighborhood on Easter Sunday, 2007.

Rally Day 2007 was held on the last Sunday in August, a change from the traditional second Sunday in September, in order to more closely coincide with opening of schools in mid-August. A great celebration was enjoyed after worship with picnic foods, indoor and outdoor games, bicycle games, and a drawing that gave away a bicycle or tricycle to every child and youth present.

(Walk thru Bethlehem:  insert the second paragraph from history booklet of 2008 that describes the first “Walk” held in December 2007.)

Christmas saw another change with Cookies and Carols replacing the Christmas play. All ages gathered in Fellowship Hall during the Sunday School hour and enjoyed singing, decorating and eating Christmas cookies, and making Chrismon ornaments for the Sunday School tree.

In January 2008, the congregation was saddened when Rev. Granville Smythe announced that he would retire on July 1, 2008. On March 2, it was announced that Rev. Larry Howard, with his wife Deborah, had been appointed by the Bishop, effective July 1.

Easter 2008 brought back a much-loved tradition of releasing balloons after Sunday School. The sanctuary was adorned with four vibrant new banners created by members of the congregation.

Heritage Sunday 2008 was dedicated to Lucille Sams, who passed away on March 12, 2008, and photos of the church’s history were shown during worship, as well as dedication of the banners as memorial gifts.

On a summer Sunday evening in August of 2008, the first “Singspiration” was held. The congregation enjoyed an inspiring hour singing classic hymns interspersed with readings by members of the congregation.

In 2009 ten members of the church attended training led by national leadership of the United Methodist Church, and we embarked on a revitalization program called “Re-Think Church.” Immediately a Re-Think committee was formed and began to meet regularly, following national guidelines for innovative ways to energize worship, increase attendance and involvement, improve the facility, reach out more effectively to the community.

In May of 2010 we held a three-night revival with guest preachers, multi-ethnic choirs and a community supper each evening. On Sunday, July 18, the first outdoor worship and cook-out was held under canopies on the east lawn. A few people from the neighborhood attended and were happily welcomed by the congregation.

On November 20th the first annual Thanksgiving Food Giveaway was held in the church parking lot. 450 boxes containing items for a Thanksgiving meal were given to families identified by neighborhood school counselors and others from this church and the People’s United Methodist Church. The boxes were supplied by Epworth UMC in Denver who distributed several thousand boxes each year.

Pastor Howard had to take medical leave beginning January 1, 2011, and an interim senior minister, Rev. Lowell Karnes, was appointed for six months, along with his wife, Svetlana. In July, 2011, we welcomed Rev. Derek DeToni-Hill as senior minister of Central while his wife, Rev. Joyce DeToni-Hill was appointed to Pike’s Peak UMC.

Christmas, 2011, saw the return of a children’s Christmas program, now presented on Christmas Eve at the 5:00 service.

Sunday, June 12, 2012, was a memorable day as Central’s contribution to the “Change the World Day” campaign of the United Methodist Church. We held “Church around Town” by reaching out to our community. The morning began with a brief worship experience in the sanctuary, and then groups of all ages went forth, some to do clean-up in America the Beautiful Park downtown, families with young children cleaning Wilson Elementary School Park, several groups attending worship at other churches, and a large group visiting Winslow Court Senior Residence in the afternoon for an ice-cream social and singing.

Two significant mission trips in 2012 were a week-long trip by the youth to McCurdy School in New Mexico in late June and a five-day trip by Pastor Derek to Arkhangelsk, Russia, in October. On Sunday afternoon, October 14, the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale performed a benefit concert in our sanctuary sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Russia Initiative to raise funds for the Methodist church we support in Arkhangelsk.

In late June, 2012, a celebration of ministry was held for Rev. Judy Owsley as she retired, effective 7/01/12. The congregation also celebrated the appointment of Rev. Joyce DeToni-Hill as Minister of Congregational Development, assuming Rev. Judy’s position with the addition of responsibility for the youth ministry.

Our new clergy couple brought dynamic new leadership and invited the congregation to participate in a year-long study, “The Grand Sweep,”   which included reading the entire Bible. Sixty people met in five small groups from September 2012 to the fall of 2013, and the entire congregation were enriched by weekly sermons using scripture related to each week’s reading assignments.

In August, 2013, the first “United Praise Service” was held on a Sunday evening. Members and choirs of five neighboring congregations participated in a grand time of singing praises. Central was blessed that within a one-block radius of the church there were a Korean, a Hispanic, and an African-American congregation as well as United Methodist and Lutheran churches. The evening concluded with a fellowship meal of foods provided by all the participants. 

Rev. Judy Owsley led a mission trip to Russia from September 28 to October 16, 2013, that included participants from Central as well as other congregations. The team visited Arkhangelsk and spent time with Pastor Dima Balashov and his congregation.

The ten years from 2004 to 2014 have been enriched by many events and new traditions, such as the following: the UMW New Year’s Brunch; an annual Valentine’s Banquet hosted by the UMM with the youth group helping as servers, February sales of handmade chocolates as a youth-group fund-raiser, Missions Celebration Sunday each year in the spring with a guest preacher, a youth worship service in the spring as well as a youth-led Sunrise Service on Easter, the Daughter-Daughter Luncheon hosted by UMW in May, Vacation Bible School in June that now includes a free night at the Sky Sox ballgame and tailgate picnic during VBS; an annual UMW Yard Sale /  Youth Car Wash / UMM hotdog lunch that attracts many people from the neighborhood; Pasta Dinner sponsored by the youth group; UMW Bazaar each fall that raises money for UMW missions; Fall Carnival in late October that invites children to wear costumes and enjoy games, food and fun; Christmas caroling in December followed by a chili cook-off at the church. The years have seen numerous visioning retreats and excellent spiritual retreats for the congregation; youth retreats and mission trips; great all-church events sponsored by the Family Life Ministry Team, such as Candy Bar Bingo, roller skating, miniature golf, Easter egg hunt, and much more!  The Caring Ministry Team has been created to keep in touch with our Wise and Valued Elders (WAVES). Ten caring ‘ministers’ visit, call and bring small gifts to everyone aged 85 and over (28 people in 2014), and in December 2013 they hosted a Christmas Coffee for ALL the WIVES, aged 80 and over.

As the church looks forward to a promised-filled future, we give thanks for the great tradition of dedication and innovation that are the hallmarks of our history. In 2015, based on the decision by our predecessors to acknowledge the year 1915 as the ‘birth’ of this church, we will commemorate the centennial of Central United Methodist Church with a grand celebration including a worship service with Bishop Elaine Stanovsky preaching, April 26th.  This picture was taken in March, 2015.