Our Church History
Over a Century and a Half of Christian Dedication
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Chelsea was organized in 1853 and was served by traveling clergy from Ann Arbor. By 1859, the congregation had built a church on the current Park Street site. The first minister who served the church on a regular basis was B.I. Ives. Just after the Civil War, in 1866, a parsonage was constructed next to the church. The congregation grew to more than 50 members during this time.
In January, 1899, the wooden church building burned to the ground. The church was rebuilt as the current stone structure in thirteen months at a cost of $6,000. The dedication of the stone edifice was in February, 1900, with the dedication sermon preached by Rev. I.B. Ives, who had led the congregation in 1859. During his two sermons, enough money was raised to completely pay off the cost of the building and to install a new pipe organ.
As the community of Chelsea grew and flourished, so did our congregation. By 1939, membership had grown to more than 300 persons. World War II was a huge disruption in the lives of the people of Chelsea and of the church. Nonetheless, in 1945, before the war had ended, the church building was completely redecorated under the leadership of Rev. Edward Major.
After the war, the congregation continued to grow. Under the leadership of Dorothy Beach, Jane Shairer, and others, the Christian Education program flourished. By the late 1950's, the congregation numbered more than 500 and had clearly outgrown the stone church built in 1899. The solution was the current Educational Wing, begun in 1959 and dedicated in 1963.
Outstanding clergy and laity, committed to Christian education and music, stimulated further growth and continued outreach. In 1981, our worship was enhanced by the addition of a Zimmer Organ.
During 1982, our congregation focused on the future ministry of the church. A decision was made to remain committed to the present site and serve as a vital witness in the downtown Chelsea community. Loans were made for new construction to add to the sanctuary and education wing. In 1992, construction began on the main entrance, elevator, coatroom and restrooms. When the work was completed, the congregation was blessed with a gift from the estate of Mildred Grams that helped to pay off the costs of construction. The growth and energy of the congregation gave momentum for the building of the Shairer Wing, including Grams Hall. Those facilities were opened in 1996.
Now, in the 21st Century, our congregation has nearly 700 members. Chelsea First United Methodist Church has a growing ministry of music, missional outreach, and spiritual growth opportunities for all ages. We have great hope as we look to the future!