This profile was last updated in 2003
Methodism reached the Arizona territory in 1868, with the itinerant preaching and revival activities of John L. Dyer of Colorado. The Church community grew slowly in the post-Civil War years, with only 33 members in the entire region by 1879. After a failed attempt to establish a Methodist University in Phoenix in 1885, Reverend O.S. Frambes relocated to Tempe and was named the first Methodist minister there in 1887. The original Tempe First Methodist Church (at Maple and Sixth Streets) opened under his leadership in 1888. The church, located near the Territorial Normal School, grew along with the school. By the late 1950s, the school had grown to become Arizona State University and the Tempe First United Methodist Church had grown to number over 1,000 members. The present home of the church was erected in 1963, now adjoining the campus of Arizona State University. The long connection between the church and Arizona State is underscored by current church membership– about 40% of the members are students at ASU.
Activities and Schedule
The church offers “Traditional” worship services on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and “Contemporary” services on Sundays at 11 a.m. There is a full schedule of classes (on such topics as Discipleship, Confirmation preparation, youth Bible Study) as well as a number of choirs (including a Handbell Choir) for members to join. Special interest groups (such as women-only spiritual study groups and fellowship groups for men) as well as Sunday School and Teen Ministries demonstrate the church’s connection to the community. The church also offers aerobics classes and has made a major commitment to attract and serve a student clientele. The church publishes a semi-monthly newsletter, Goalpost, to alert membership to special events, seasonal worship services and opportunities to volunteer.
Membership and attendance at the church reflects the presence of an older, well-established community along with a substantial, transitory student community. Quite a range of age groups are represented, as well as different ethnic backgrounds. In general, ethnic diversity is most apparent in the student membership while the membership taken from the Tempe community at large is predominantly Anglo-American with some Hispanic representation.
The present church building was dedicated in 1964 and includes offices, classrooms and a sizable sanctuary. The building is dominated by the round sanctuary, adjoined by a small chapel and a two-story building housing the Wesley Foundation (the college ministry of the United Methodist Church).