Methodism in Scotch Plains began on August 14, 1870 when a group of 60 persons joined for a religious service in the old engine house in Bartle Avenue. Twelve days later, on August 26, 1870, the group officially organized as a mission church of the Plainfield Methodist Episcopal Church, from which it ultimately separated as the First Methodist Episcopal Church in 1871.
Outgrowing the engine house the worshippers later met in the public school and the Scotch Plains Baptist Church while constructing a new edifice at Mountain Avenue and Forest Road. The cornerstone for the new church was installed July 13, 1871, and the $6,000 debt-free building was dedicated February 15, 1872. Sunday School classes established August 13, 1871 in a congregant’s barn moved into the new building February 25, 1872.
The early days of the church showed a great spiritual growth “with as many as 40 persons being welcomed as new members at one time, and the services crowded with worshippers.” The Ladies Society was organized April 24, 1871. An adjoining chapel for Sunday School classes was built in 1921 and a parsonage added in 1926. A small band of faithful struggled valiantly during the depression and World War II years, and in January, 1951 the congregation celebrated the burning of the mortgage on the two added buildings to the First Methodist Church of Scotch Plains. (The name change reflected the merger of two major Methodist sects in 1939.)
With the growth of the community following World War II, the need for enlarged facilities became imperative, and in October, 1962, the church’s Board of Trustees announced the purchase of a 3.5 acre tract at 1171 Terrill Road, Scotch Plains for $25,000. A Financial Crusade, inaugurated February 4, 1965 with a goal of $50,000 resulted in gifts and pledges totaling $66,000.
A second fund drive in March brought in additional building fund contributions of $15,000. The Methodist District Conference responded with assistance in the amount of $30,000, and the Westfield Methodist Church made a gift of $2,500.
The contract for the $200,000 structure was awarded and ground was broken June 16, 1968 at ceremonies, following a motor procession of worshippers from the morning service on Mountain Avenue. In the same year, the Methodist Church merged with the United Evangelical Brethren Church, a larger congregation with the new name United Methodist Church. As a consequence, our church was renamed the First United Methodist Church of Scotch Plains.
The new building––Phase 1 in a 2-part program––included a Fellowship Hall which was to double as worship center, an Educational Building with six classrooms; a church office, kitchen, storage rooms, and restrooms. The plot plan allowed for the construction of a sanctuary at a later date.
In April, 1985, a committee of church members was formed to explore the possibility of building a permanent sanctuary, Phase 2 of the 2-part program. The Building Crusade for the sanctuary was started in October, 1986. The congregation was asked to underwrite the amount of $400,000 to be donated over a period of three years. A congregational meeting was held on May 22, 1989, at which time, the building of the new sanctuary was authorized. The contractors would erect the sanctuary for a total cost of $512,000. The ground breaking ceremony took place on September 24, 1989. When the building was completed, a service of dedication for the sanctuary was held on June 3, 1990.
When a long-time member of the church passed away, he left the bulk of his estate to the church. Seventy-five percent of this bequest went to the Administrative Council for the general treasury and was to be used as deemed appropriate. (The remainder was designated for the Church Maintenance budget.) It was decided by the Administrative Board that the generous gift would be used to retire the mortgage on the sanctuary. The mortgage burning ceremony took place on October 18, 1992.
In 1997, the Administrative Council, with the guidance of Reverend Sam Chong, initiated a ministry to Chinese Christians and seekers. The ministry held worship services on Sunday afternoons and shortly thereafter, two members from the church instituted an English as a Second Language program for the Chinese. In 2012, the members of the Chinese Ministry officially joined the First Methodist Church of Scotch Plains. A Chinese language service is now held each Sunday at 10:30 am and the two congregations join for Communion Sunday and other special services as well as for fellowship events.