First United Methodist Church
Friday, February 12, 2016
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
Amityville New York United Methodist Church
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The long history of First United Methodist Church is the history of American Methodism, of Amityville, and of Long Island.
The first ‘Methodist Class’ in the settlement then known as West Neck, later to be known as Amityville, consisted of a prayer group of twelve people, led by Aaron Place, held in 1792 in the living room of Elijah Chichester, located at 145 Broadway, near the present intersection of Avon. This was only eight years after the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784.
That same year a preaching circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church was established to serve Long Island. Circuit riders conducted services in various homes as they traveled from village to village.
By 1810 there were 39 villages in the Long Island circuit, and it was split into two circuits, with the Chichester Class in the Jamaica circuit, which extended from Jamaica to Patchogue.
In 1823, the first church building in the village was built on what is now Merrick Road, then known as the turnpike, east of Broadway. Prior to that, services had been held in private homes or in the schoolhouse.
The West Neck church was a part of various circuits until 1840 when it became part of the Huntington South Circuit.
In 1845, the old church was replaced by a new building on the same site on Merrick (then South) Road, paid for by money raised by the members in the total of $1110.25. The original building was moved to the corner of Broadway and Cedar (and is now the offices of attorney Richard Handler).
In 1847, the name ‘Amityville’ first appears in local records, and in 1859 it first appears in church records. The first Post Office was acquired in 1850, at which time there were still Native Americans living in teepees on the outskirts of the village.
In 1858, a newly married man broke with custom and sat during services with his wife in the women’s section of the sanctuary and was given a ‘trial’, after which the custom of segregating the sexes grew into disfavor.
In 1859, Amityville, Seaford and Wantagh were formed into a circuit of their own.
In 1866, a progressive group of church members smuggled in a ‘melodeon’, an instrument similar to a small piano, and it was placed in the ‘gallery’. After a contentious debate, it was allowed to stay. Previously, no musical instruments had been allowed in the church building. (At some point this original melodeon left the church and was converted into a desk. It was eventually found in a barn and returned to the church, and is still in the church parlor now.)
In 1867, the Long Island Railroad came through the village.
On March 17, 1868, the church members voted 30 to 8 to move the church from its location on Merrick Road. The church building was subsequently physically moved from Merrick Road to its present site on Broadway, and enlarged.
In 1869, as a consequence of the church moving to Broadway, the members from the farm families from the northern part of Amityville, due to the inconvenience of traveling to the southern part of the village, split off from First Church and built Simpson Methodist Church on Locust Avenue, north of Sunrise Highway.
In 1872, the First M.E. Church in Amityville was deemed a separate appointment and assigned its first full time pastor.
In 1890, it was unanimously decided in favor to erect a new building for the church, with the old building to be used as Sunday school rooms.
In 1891, an architect was hired and given a budget of not more than $8000. Fifty feet of additional adjoining land to the south was purchased for $850. The contract was awarded to the builder for $6953.00. The cornerstone was laid on October 26, 1891, and the new building was dedicated on July 10, 1892. The final cost for the building and purchase of land ended up being $13,000.
In 1907, the parsonage was remodeled and enlarged into the present home of the Pastor.
In 1911, a Boy Scout troop was formed among the church members, one year after the founding of the Boy Scouts in the US.
In 1915, an addition to the church school rooms was built on the north side of the building, and was known as ‘the Annex’.
In 1921, the choir room and loft were built on the south side of the church, and a new electric organ was installed.
In 1939, the name of the Methodist Episcopal Church was changed to the Methodist Church with the unification of American Methodism.
The same year, plans for remodeling to add a second floor with a kitchen, parish hall (Ireland Hall), and the balcony for the sanctuary. Also, the first floor was remodeled to add the chapel, library, parlor, three classrooms, cloak room, and a foyer extending the length of the sanctuary, with three entrances to the sanctuary.
On October 20, 1940, the newly remodeled church was re-dedicated.
In 1944, the 150th anniversary of the church was celebrated, including dedication of a new altar, and modernization of the organ.
Also at that time, the church inherited from the estate of Christian Dittman a large piece of property immediately to the north of the church grounds. Included on this property were a large brick building, which became the Church Attic, and a white frame house behind that building.
As part of that inheritance, the church was the beneficiary of a gift that made possible the installation of the stained glass window at the rear of the altar.
In 1948, a new wing was proposed to accommodate the rapidly growing membership, the Sunday school wing, and new organ and remodel of altar and choir loft. Dedication took place on November 13, 1949, with the new wing being known as the Arthur C. Robbins Memorial Building.
In 1955, the basement of the Robbins Building was remodeled.
In 1957, a new building was erected at the rear of the church to house staff, provide space for a new furnace, and provide additional room for Sunday school.
Also in 1957, a second full time pastor was added.
In 1970, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren came together to form the United Methodist Church.
In 1976, the organ was again reconditioned with the addition of further pipes, and an 1887 pipe organ was obtained and installed in the Chapel.
Improvements and physical growth of the house of worship are only an outward sign of the dedication of faithful members who have provided the real history. All pastors have contributed their own style of Christian leadership and have left their own mark.