Forward Through the Ages

This book is a series of chapters about the history of Methodists in Santa Rosa, CA, as provided by Norm Hardin.

This series is available as two .pdf files:

Forward Through the Ages, part 1

Forward Through the Ages, part 2

Our Story

From the earliest Methodist circuit riders during the gold rush era through the present day, the First United Methodist Church of Santa Rosa has had a vital impact in the community. Methodists were here before there was a city of Santa Rosa, and we have grown as an integral and important asset to Sonoma County. We pray that our future is as full and effective in mission and ministry as our past has been.

The first Protestant church in the whole North Bay was the Methodist church in Sonoma. The first handful of Santa Rosa Methodists began meeting in1851with Baptists, who built the first church in the Santa Rosa area. Methodists built their first church structure in 1861 at Third and D Streets. During the1890’s the Santa Rosa Methodists were at their highest point with the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal (South) church, The German Methodist Episcopal church and the Pacific Methodist College, all very active in the community. In 1901 a new Methodist Episcopal church was completed on Fourth Street . The church soon grew to be a popular landmark in the town, and was featured in several picture post cards of the day. Following the famous northern California earthquake of 1906. the steeple of the Methodist Episcopal (South) church on Fifth Street stood like a beacon of hope in the rubble of demolished buildings During the 1920’s to the 40’s the Southern branch and the German language branch merged with “the mother church” to become the Methodist Church of Santa Rosa. Because of the mergers and growth of the town, the church had grown considerably and no longer fit in the building built in 1901. 

A new facility was completed on Montgomery Drive in 1951, on property given by Mrs. Mead Clark. The growth in ministry and mission continued through the 20th century leading the church to embark on a multi-site ministry at the turn of the century. Eight acres were purchased at the corner of Giffen Ave. and Stony Point Road for a second campus of the church, with worship services beginning in in the R. L. Stevens School in the year 2000. In 2006, the Stony Point Ministry Center was consecrated as the first new building on the Stony Point Campus.

The First United Methodist Church of Santa Rosa currently offers six worship services at both the Montgomery and Stony Point campuses throughout the week. Each service offers a somewhat different style of worship that represents the many different ways that people think about and express their faith. It is important to note that the differences are of style, and not substance. We have come to understand that diversity is healthy. The people called Methodists are 

not of one mind and perhaps never will be; however, we agree with John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in 19th century England, when he said: "We do not have to think alike to love alike."

When we examine the soul of the church, we miss the centrality of God's love if we look only at location, wood or concrete. The "historical" Methodist Church has been a presence, not merely a place. It is a body of well-meaning, God-serving people who have joined with others to create a community of love. Where should a church be? Anywhere the love of God is needed. Therefore, we are a church that strives to create a community of love by reaching up through personal spirituality and reaching out with social responsibility to all of God's people.

Take a quick peek at our church history in the series of vignettes titled: Forward Through the Ages.