To be a Methodist in Germantown in the late 1700's and early 1800s meant facing struggles and sometimes ridicule. One well-known Quaker told a friend who had just become a Methodist, "If the Methodists get a foothold in Germantown, the Devil will not drive them out." For more than two centuries those Methodists, proud to call themselves FUMCOGers, have made a determined effort not just to stay in Germantown, but to help the neighborhood thrive.
The First United Methodist Church of Germantown had its origins in a class of 11 members organized by the Rev. Ezekiel Cooper on June 4, 1796. The class leader was Joseph Jacobs, a "London tailor" who had been a follower of John Wesley in England and whose shop was at 5920 Main Street (Germantown Avenue), just one block from where the Church is now. This group became the nucleus of the future Methodist society at Germantown. The class met in various homes, including that of Daniel Pastorius, the great-grandson of Francis Daniel Pastorius who founded Germantown in 1683. Daniel Pastorius' house was built on the corner of Main Street (now Germantown Avenue) and High Street in 1796. FUMCOG now stands at the site of Daniel Pastorius' home, which was moved up High Street 100 years after it was built to make way for the current church building.
In 1799, when Jacob Reger wanted to marry Dorothy Shrader, her mother said they could only wed if Jacob would promise to take the two of them to St. George's Methodist Chapel in Philadelphia each Sunday. It was a two-hour trip each way. Jacob agreed, but it wasn't long before their house on Pickius Lane (Haines Street) in Germantown became a meeting place for Methodists. Jacob became a Methodist, and then a Sunday school teacher. The couple is credited with helping to revive the Methodist Society in Germantown.
Perhaps the best-known moment in the history of the church is the laying of the cornerstone for the little Meeting House on Pikius Lane in 1803. The Rev. Ezekiel Cooper of Philadelphia was to do the honor, but as the service progressed, Rev. Cooper didn't appear. Daniel Pastorius, the Quaker who helped raise money for the new building and even supervised its construction, spoke to those gathered. Dorothy Reger announced the name of a hymn to be sung and then offered a prayer. Her next act was a first in the history of Methodism, as she took up a trowel and laid the cornerstone of the"first church" building. It was the first church in Germantown to hold services in English, and unlike most churches of that time, it did not charge for pews.
As the congregation continued to grow and outgrow its facilities, new church buildings became necessary. In 1812 the group bought the lot next door for a burying ground, and in 1818 the size of the little meeting house was doubled to 30 x 40 feet. In 1823, a new building was constructed on a piece of land a little farther east.
A turning point came in 1893 when the Trustees were authorized to purchase a site for a new church. Controversy over where and even whether to move was resolved when William Dunton, the owner of the Pastorius house, agreed to sell part of the land at the corner of Germantown and High. The Pastorius house was moved to its present location at 25 High Street. On June 4, 1896, exactly 100 years after the church's formation, the cornerstone of the present church sanctuary was laid.
As the Church flourished, it acquired more property and expanded existing buildings. In 1912 the church bought the Green Tree Tavern which now serves as the church office; 1931 saw the construction of the Turner Chapel and the education building.
Over these years of growth and change, the congregation was well served by a succession of pastors. Early circuit preachers were eventually replaced by permanent ministers sometime after the congregation became a station or independent church in 1851. Two of these leaders were Dr. Frank Parkin, pastor when the current sanctuary was built, and Dr. Ladd Thomas, pastor from 1922 to 1943 when many additions to the church properties were made.