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GUMC History

"The mission of the Grinnell United Methodist Church is to live as a community in Christ where all persons can experience being deeply loved and are prompted to eagerly share this gift of love where ever God may lead them."

Brief History of the Grinnell United Methodist Church

For further historical insight, contact the office.


The first Methodist society dates back to 1857, when a class meeting was formed with as few as six members: Nathaniel Ellis and wife, W. W. Sargent and wife, Sarah Ellis, and Mrs. Jane Black. This class, at that time, was connected with the Peoria Circuit. Rev. Abner Orr was the Circuit Pastor.

The first services were held in private homes, and later in the school house once in three weeks. This method of service lasted a number of years. 

It was during the pastorate of Rev. Geo. Clammers in 1863-1864 that plans were made to purchase a building for their services. A little building, standing then on the Southwest corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue was purchased for $700. A. P. Cook's words are appropriate here:

"But where were the $700? We decided to raise half of it in cash, and give a mortgage for the rest. We were all poor, so that we were obliged to deny ourselves of many things, but we were determined to win. A subscription paper was circulated all over town and only about $125 secured. When I came up to town and saw

the brethren were discouraged, I told them they had not half tried. I met J. B. Grinnell and added #35. So for a

time I worked and had on my list $211 and the day was saved.Then we made seats, pulpit, and platform. Papered and painted the room, until we had a very convenient little Church in which to worship."

This first building was sold to G. M. Hatch & Co. in 1867; and it was used for the East section of the Hatch Row on Fourth Avenue,

having been moved across from Fourth and Main.

A Sunday School was organized in 1865 and is still a large part of the Church today.


In 1867-1868 a lot was purchased at the corner of Fifth and Park Streets. This was done under the dynamic

leadership of Rev. Dennis Murphy.

A frame structure was built, 40x60 feet, at a cost of $6000. It had a vestibule at the East end, the pulpit at the West end, a wide middle aisle,

center of the seats on both sides, a seat was removed and a big pot-belled stove furnished the heat for the Church. It was aided by

running the stove pipes in either direction to the chimneys. Later in the eighties, a one large register furnace was installed in the center

of the middle aisle, which gave us what heat we had. In 1887 a choir and organ loft were built in the church.

In 1880-1883 Rev. Dennis Murphy was Pastor for a second time. In 1881 Rev. Murphy had the task of raising the funds for a Methodist Parsonage at this place. He met with flattering success--so much so he felt certain the building would "go up soon." It did and the Church Parsonage was built in 1883 at the West end of the lot for Sabbath School classes, Pastor's Office, Nursery, etc.

This Church served the congregation until the close of the pastorate of Rev. Morris Bamford in 1894 when the membership was almost 600. It was sold to the town for the use of Army Company K, and was moved to the lot near the Spaulding Manufacturing Company on Fourth Ave. in 1895. The town gave $50 on it and there is no account of any other money being given. Services were held in it until the new Church was dedicated April 26, 1896.

The former church, dedicated in 1868, later burned; but there are two windows that were saved by Frederick Risse, used in the house he built at the corner of 3rd Ave. and Spring Street.


On January 4, 1895, the Official Board met to talk over the needs of a larger church to accommodate the growing congregation. It was decided to take steps at once to prepare for the erection of a new church.

In May, 1895, work was begun on the new church, and by June 28 the excavation for the basement was completed and the concrete part of the foundation nearly done. The stone work on the foundation proper was begun at this time.

The Corner Stone was laid on Wednesday, August 7, 1895 at 2:00pm.

The present beautiful stone church was completed and dedicated on April 26-27, 1896. 

In May of 1957, high above on the tip of the East steeple was placed a gold cross. It is 3 1/2 feet high, and is made of metal and covered with 23 K gold leaf. Being covered with gold leaf, it will always be bright and shiny.

Rev. G. S. Bruland came to Grinnell in June, 1957 and took up the work of the church. The organ needed repairs, so at this time the pulpit in the Sanctuary was rearranged, and a new Console was installed at the Southeast corner of the pulpit so that the choir chairs might be arranged to fit the needs of the time, and the altar was placed further to the west. 


In addition to the eloquent sermons which Rev. Custer preached each Sunday morning, an outstanding feature of his term in Grinnell was the building of the educational wing. This was voted May 5, 1964. Ground was broken for it on March 15, 1966, at 4pm on the former location of the old parsonage west of the church.

On October 30, 1966, the new building was consecrated with Bishop James Thomas, the bishop of Iowa United Methodist Church, officiating, after which an open house was held from 2-4pm. It was fully paid for by 1970 with donations completed and interest on the loan having been included in the budget.

October, 1968, was a momentous date: the two conferences of the Methodist church--North Iowa and South--and that of the Evangelical United Brethren met in Des Moines to take action on a plan to create a single conference by June, 1969. The culmination of all this planning was celebrated on June, 9, 1969, at the Veteran's Auditorium in Des Moines. The three conferences, Iowa (formerly EUB), North Iowa, and South Iowa, became one Iowa Annual Conference. However, the official merger of the EUB and the Methodist churches did not take place until November 30, 1969. The name of the church was changed again, and now we are the United Methodist Church.

After Sunday services were set for 10:30 to 11:30am in 1973, an after-church fellowship time was started in the chapel.

Acolytes--altar boys or girls in white vestments--add a special dignity to a Sunday morning worship service. In November, 1973, seventeen young people were trained and inducted.


In 1976 the Eichhorn family gave sidewalk lights around the church. A new roof was placed on the Educational wing in 1976.

On August 24, 1977, the church agreed to house the Community Day Care Center "for a few months." The "short stay" continued until June 1994 when the Center moved to the new Ahrens Facility.

In 1978 plans were underway to purchase bells for the bell choirs. 

A study committee was appointed in 1980 to explore options for remodeling of the sanctuary. Sanctuary improvements included elimination of all steps in access areas, an electric opener for the large overhead door leading to the over flow area, new pews and the portable equipment for the entire chancel area. The organ was relocated to the West end of the pulpit area, chairs for the choir face each other with a pulpit on each side of the altar. Portable railings for communion and for the bell choir are placed in front of the altar platform when needed.

In 1993, it was discovered that the east tower of the church was in a dangerous condition. Years of water damage had taken its told. Many stones needed to be replaced. Plans for repair were made and the project was entitled "Setting Stones." During the project, the tower was removed and repaired while on the ground. Stones on the main structure were also replaced and the church roof repaired. Work was completed by September 27, 1993.

Centennial year observances began on August 6, 1995 with the re-enacting of the laying of the cornerstone of the building on August 7, 1895.

During the last years of this period, it became apparent that with increased church membership and activities, our fellowship hall and kitchen were no longer adequate. Also handicapped accessibility to all areas of the church needed to be addressed.

On November 17, 1996 a plan for a building project was presented to the congregation. A capital funds campaign preceded construction.


Construction on the new addition proceeded rapidly. The use of a geothermal heating/cooling system was selected and undertaken.

A full length, ceiling height, three dimensional mural designed and executed by Tom Mosberg of Des Moines covers the entire south wall of the Fellowship Hall. Mr. Mosberg also contributed a smaller work adjacent to the Chapel door and a mural in color in the lower level lounge and meeting room.

Another very significant milestone was begun under the leadership of Reverend Dawes as the Methodist Church Foundation was established to receive gifts and bequests.

A major effort was undertaken to restore and protect the stained glass windows in the sanctuary. Time had rendered some of them in perilous condition and in danger of collapse.The exterior plastic shield had become opaque. As a result of this endeavor, which took almost three years to complete, we now have secure and beautiful stained glass windows approximately the same as when they were initially installed 119 years previously.

The organ was again causing problems for those who graced us with their musical talents and abilities so a general restoration and improvement program was begun to bring the old organ to a more proper condition. 

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