The First United Methodist Church of Athens is older than Athens itself. In 1800, Rev. James Quinn, newly ordained by Bishop Richard Whatcoat (himself ordained by John Wesley) and assigned to the entire territory northwest of the Ohio, made a missionary tour up the Hocking River. He preached at Athens, then consisting of not more than five or six widely scattered log cabins. Soon after, a Hockhocking Circuit, with Rev. Quinn in charge, was created in the old Western Conference (covering Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio). The circuit extended from the Muskingum River to the Scioto, "a hard and laborious circuit" that required weeks to ride.
Until 1813, services in Athens were held in private homes; in that year the Methodists erected their first church building. It faced east on Congress Street. As late as 1825 this first brick edifice was one of only six public buildings and the only church in Athens.
The first church on the present College Street site was built in 1837. By 1847 Athens became a station - that is, it had a minister of its own, rather than sharing a circuit-rider. In 1908 the second church building was replaced with an even grander structure, replete with a magnificent organ.
The Wesley Foundation was organized in 1927-8, with the Rev. Arlie H. Krussell as first Wesley Foundation pastor.
The congregation dropped its "middle name" Episcopal, in 1939, when the three largest branches of American Methodism united. The Woman's Society of Christian Service (now known as our United Methodist Women) and Methodist Youth Fellowship were established locally the following year on the plans resulting from that unification.
By 1949, it was clear that the old church building had been outgrown; before plans for enlarging it could reach fruition, the church burned on February 5, 1955. In its three homeless years, until February 1958, the congregation met in what is now known as the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.
Currently, the church has a membership of 613. Two worship services are held on Sunday mornings - 8:45 in the Chapel and 10:30 in the Sanctuary, with the later service broadcast live on WATH radio (970) beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday school classes for all ages are held Sunday mornings at 9:30.
Our United Methodist Women have three active circles that meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month (September-May): one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. The men's prayer breakfast is held at Bob Evans restaurant every Thursday from 7 to 8 a.m.
Monday Lunch is an outreach program that provides a free lunch every Monday from 12 to 1 p.m. in Fellowship Hall. This program is directed by our Monday Lunch Coordinator and is staffed by volunteers.
Activities, study groups, music ensembles, service opportunities, etc. are available for folks of all ages. To learn more about these, please use the links located below: