Christ UMC History

Our History 1836 to Present When thinking about the History of our Church, one could easily think of it as a record of dates, names, events, and pictures. However, it maybe more helpful to think of the history of our church as a record of Divine Accomplishments, Devotion, Spiritual Growth, and Sacrifices. Our History was written by Men and Women of Deep Faith, Talent, and Perseverance. We pray those records provide inspiration for today as well as for the next generation as we follow Jesus Christ and declare the reign of God’s Love in Olean, NY.

Please feel free to Continue to read the information below on Christ UMC's history:
     September 25, 1836 truly marks the birth of our church life in Olean, NY. On February 25, 1852 a meeting was held, and the society’s official name was adopted as the First Methodist Episcopal Church, Olean. The First Methodist Episcopal Church was built in January 1853 on the corner lot of North Union and Hamilton Streets.       

     Olean had 3 First Methodist Episcopal Churches and Mission in 1888; First Church, the Ninth Street Chapel, and East Olean Chapel on the corner of Chestnut St and Garden Ave.
     The corner of Ninth St and East Olean societies were incorporated as People’s Methodist Episcopal Church. Worship was held in the East Olean Chapel until April 5, 1892 when it was partially destroyed by a cyclone an had to be demolished. The new church building was decided on July 16, 1983 and the People’s Methodist Episcopal Church incorporated the same year. People’s Methodist Church was built in 1893. Ninth Street Chapel; is known today as (Trinity) and the East Olean Chapel (later People’s Church).

     The Primary building had been torn down and plans were being studied for a new Education Building when suddenly on Sunday, February 13, 1966 First Church was completely destroyed by fire. This was a sad tragedy for the pastor and members of the church. Most of the church records were destroyed as were the organ and the beautiful stained glass windows. The fire companies responded quickly, and the church members and fellow townspeople stood dismayed in the cold and drizzling rain as the wall and floors collapsed.

     Offers to help poured in from the whole community of Olean and the surrounding areas-help offered by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish friends. The group finally accepted the kind offer of Rev. Curtis Gould and the congregation of Shower Memorial E.U.B. Church for the use of the former E.U.B. Church on 13th and Washington Streets. Under the Leadership of Samuel Carr, work started immediately to make usable the premises of this vacant building. Getting this church in readiness was accomplished by about 80 person who worked very hard that week cleaning, getting equipment for church school, and rescuing from the ruins a few hymnals and whatever else could be used.

     On the very next Sunday, after their baptism by fire, the congregation was worshipping God in a different building. There developed a new closeness, for they had been drawn together by a common need.

      Following many meeting and discussions, plans for a merger were completed. On Sunday evening, October 16, 1966, the First Church meeting in the sanctuary and People’s in Memorial Hall, the two congregations agreed on the legal steps to complete their consolidation. These meetings were not just routine affairs, for the two congregations were voting to give up the identities which they had held for generations and take on a new identity as well as a new name. However, the spirit of cooperation and Christian love prevailed, and the overwhelming vote for union was greeted with praise to God and deep feeling of brotherly love in Christ as they united in singing “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

     The Court approved the merger and new corporation on December 23, 1966. From a list 65 suggestions the name Christ United Methodist Church was accepted. The merged congregations consisted of 740 members. June 25, 1967, the preliminary plans were approved. On August 20 the $450,000 building program as outlined by the Building Committee was approved. The congregation met on August 27 for the first official function on the new site; the consecration of the ground to the Lord and ground-breaking for the new building. On Sunday, June 9, 1968 the Cornerstone Ceremony took place at 4:00pm in the narthex of the new building.

     The occasion was really the laying of three cornerstones, for the 1881 cornerstone of former First Church was relaid and its original contents and box placed behind by Percy J. McEvelia. The 1892 stone of the former People’s Church was relaid and its original contents and box placed by Mrs. Mabel W. Wright. The box and contents for Christ United Church were placed in position by Ellsworth Decker, President of Houghton Construction Co., General Contractor; William Wasson, Building Committee Chairman; Dr. Gilbert W. Wieting, District Superintendent, and Rev. William Gaiser, Pastor.
     Placed in this cornerstone were: Brief History of First Methodist Church, Brief History of People’s Church, Current Membership roll, lists of Church School teachers and workers, various committees, choir members, photos of the two merged churches, construction photos, “Methodist Discipline,” Western New York Conference Minutes, “Together” magazine, Book of Worship, The Methodist Hymnal, 1967 Financial Drive brochure and Financial Audit, WSCS program booklet and historic items, copies of “The Church Bell,” The Bible, bulletins from church services, Ground Breaking and Cornerstone Ceremony, and a copy of the “Olean Times Herald.”

     Less than five months later the dream of the congregation was realized, for on November 3 they worshipped the Lord in their beautiful new sanctuary. As the congregation faced the alter they viewed two colored faceted winder which had been designed by Rev. Gaiser symbolizing “GIVE and you shall RECEIVE.” The large cross hanging between the two windows was handcrafted by Arland Howard from local chestnut, reminding us that our first church was built by the pioneer members from hand-hewn timbers from nearby woods.

All information above came from:  (Sharing the Spirit, Ellsworth L. Brown).