Captain Thomas Webb, a member of the British Army, was a resident of Jamaica in the late 1700’ndAfter listening to sermons by John Wesley when he resided in England, he embraced the disciplines of Wesley’s teachings and converted to Methodism. Captain Webb made his first appearance in Jamaica in February 1767 where he preached in alternation with Philip Embury. Definitely a sight to behold on the pulpit, this evangelist always wore his regimental uniform, with his sword, when he preached.
The first gathering in Jamaica in 1776, consisted of 24 members, of which half of them were Black. By 1807, when the church was incorporated, official records listed the membership at eighteen. As membership increased, a church building was finally erected in 1811. However, a new larger church building was built in 1846 on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Guy R. Brewer Blvd. By 1920, the elevated train disrupted the services so badly that the church moved to 164 Street and 89 Avenue. Eventually, the members were able to sell that land to R.H. Macy and move to this present location in 1949. The Charles A. Barton Building (pastor from 1957-1966) or Educational Building was later added in 1966.
There has been tremendous change since men and women entered the church through separate doors in 1811! Approximately 117 ministers have served First Church over the last 214 years. Amazingly, only two female ministers have served First Church, but we know that the church is alive and always transforming. Today, our members reflect the diversity of this community. Two hundred and fourteen years later, we have members from the United States, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America.
Several churches and community groups share in our mission and utilize the buildings on the church property. We have a weekly food pantry that serves from 500-750 people or more each month and operated continuously despite COVID. In addition, we allocate space for weekly karate and dance classes, summer camp and meeting space for the United Methodist Men’s and Women’s groups. As part of our overall mission, we’ve strived to reach out to the community by hosting family events. We organize a community dinner during the holidays, concerts featuring jazz singers and musicians, Latin Night, movie night, and hosted a pop-up food giveaway on the lawn sponsored by State Senator Leroy Comrie, Jumaane Williams, NYC Public Advocate, Sabine French, Queens Public Advocate, and friends. We are looking forward to housing another early childhood educational center, college prep classes, ESL classes, etc. and other non-profit organizations in the near future.
We are blessed to have a church located on this beautiful site. Even though it can be a challenge, we know that we are commissioned to be stewards of God’s house. Major improvements have been made on the property, for instance, replacing of the roof and back wall of the Sanctuary, repairing the stained-glass windows and repairing the roof of the Parsonage. Recently, we were fortunate to qualify for a grant from the United Methodist City Society which enabled us to replace the aging entrance doors to the Sanctuary and Social Hall and renovate the outdated bathrooms in the Parsonage. Yet, there is always so much to be done but we must believe that our faith and wisdom will carry us through.
Striving to share the Word not only with our local community but also globally, our worship services and special events can be viewed on electronic and different social media platforms and current information is available on our website and Facebook page. We hope to accomplish this goal by improving the technology in the church.