The first service was held on March 25, 1925. The first sanctuary consisted of the entire center section of the present Hamilton Auditorium, which was not fully complete when the first service was held. The Rev. J. S. Lean became the first Pastor from the first service until June 1926. Early in the fall of 1925 the first 20 members were received into the Church.
The original Pasadena Church was built in its existing location in 1925 on two lots donated by a local businessman. The first service was held on March 25, 1925. The first sanctuary consisted of the entire center section of the present Hamilton Auditorium, which was not fully complete when the first service was held. The Rev. J. S. Lean became the first Pastor from the first service until June 1926. Early in the fall of 1925 the first 20 members were received into the Church.
The next few years were difficult for the new church. First the Florida real estate market boom collapsed in early 1926. Prosperity vanished, millions lost, and many residents were forced to return to their northern homes. As the new church struggled to grow and finances were difficult, the church used many creative methods to raise money and to increase awareness of the church. Then in 1928 a severe hurricane swept over St. Petersburg causing a great deal of damage to the city, its residents, and more specifically to the church building. The small church pressed on, not only repairing the building but contributing shoes and money to the Red Cross for local residents.
After hearing J. Wallace Hamilton speak at a District Conference in Dade City in December 1928, three members from Pasadena knew they had found their future pastor. Dr. Hamilton, who was from Pembroke, Ontario (about a 2-hour drive east of Ottawa, Canada’s capital city) started speaking at the church in June of 1929. At that time the church membership was 46 with 40 enrolled in Sunday school. Then came the stock market crash in 1929 followed by the great depression of the 1930’s. Dr. Hamilton and the church membership set of in difficult times to establish Pasadena Church as one of the leading churches in the country.
In 1932, during the peak of the financial difficulties, serious consideration was given to closing the church. There were very few winter visitors and many citizens of the area were in distress. After considering this however several different leaders from various denominations decided that Pasadena Church would be a community church, serving the entire community including Pasadena, Lake Pasadena and the Jungle area, which though 7 miles away from the City, was growing. Immediately $3,200 was raised from some prominent businessmen to complete the initial building interior, purchase 100 chairs — and membership started to grow.
As the 1930’s progressed, conditions were still severe; however they were slowly starting to improve. Church attendance gradually improved as several neighborhood canvasses were carried out. The church was slowly changing from a predominantly winter church to an all year round church. Membership approached 100 with average Sunday school attendance around 58 as 1935 arrived. Sunday services were crowded and all financial obligations had been met. In 1936 the new parsonage was purchased at 6442 3rd Avenue South at a cost of around $1,500 which served as the parsonage until around 1951 when a parsonage was purchased at 7172 2nd Avenue South. In 1936 the first printed bulletins appeared at a Sunday service. 1937 was the church’s most successful year to date as attendance started to overflow onto benches on the lawn and additional loud speakers for the out of doors listeners were added. In 1937 funds were raised for an enlargement of the church. Two wings were to be erected, one on each side of the existing building and the auditorium was to be enlarged to provide space for the chancel and choir loft together with a pastor’s study. The approximate cost of $15,000 was raised and construction commenced. As the 1930’s ended, the auditorium, which now held 725 people would fill an hour before the service, benches outside were filled and cars parked in the surrounding lots.
As 1940 started, the church immediately secured additional property around the church, added a new amplifier system, purchased a large vibraharp and chimes and a new heating system for services in the winter months. Five loud speakers now covered what was called “Radio Park” (later changed to “Garden Sanctuary”) with parking space for 2,000 cars. This had the unique appeal of allowing people to worship in the comfort of their cars if they were elderly or infirm and unable to get into the church. Outside the church however, the United States was deeply involved in World War II. The drafting of young men in increasing numbers, long lists of casualties, limitations on food, travel, gas, and materials brought home to every community the seriousness of the war.
These limitations greatly curtailed driving which affected attendance at the church. Pledges and offerings were down about 50%. The Sunday school and the youth groups had all but disappeared. The church directory had 40 service men listed, equal to more than 10% of the total membership of the church. A large army camp had been set up on the area of what is now Admiral Farragut Academy. The church was developing plans to serve the 150,000 soldiers, sailors and marines located in Pinellas County. Special services and events were held and member homes were opened up for meals and entertainment for the troops. Additionally, a regular bi- monthly newsletter was mailed to servicemen who had reached out to the church during this difficult time.
As the 1940′s moved on, the war restrictions were slowly lifted. Plans to improve the Garden Sanctuary which included building the tennis courts and improving the sound system were being advanced, Sunday School activities and enrollment were increasing and the church membership was growing. In the last years of the decade a new building project was undertaken with the addition of the Chapel and the Social Hall. The Chapel was named the Goodwin Chapel after Mr.George Goodwin who had worked tirelessly for the church, especially during the difficult WWII period. As the 1940′s ended, Dr. Hamilton was finishing his twentieth year at the church with church membership now over 1,000, the weekly congregation was many thousands, the Sunday School enrollment approaching 500 and a church annual budget which started at $2,000 now over $37,000.
As the 1950′s started, the momentum of the church continued. On Easter Sunday in 1951, 2507 cars were parked with an estimated attendance of 8,000 people. The church continued to purchase any surrounding land which became available for purchase with the Garden Sanctuary now covering 18 acres. Also the Youth Building and the East Window were built during 1951. In 1952 the streetcars and brick pavements of Central Avenue were disappearing and construction related detours temporarily hampered church activities. However the church growth soon continued with Easter services now attended by over 10,000 people. A new Associate Pastor, Rev. Walter Rutland of Clearwater was introduced in 1953 and the annual budget had now grown to over $98,000 annually.
The parsonage located at 316 Villagrande Ave. was secured as part of a land exchange. At the start of 1956 the congregation looked forward to a $175,000 building expansion which would include an educational building and new centralized offices for the staff. A special fundraising was carried out, the funds raised and construction started. Membership was now over 2,000 people
The history of The United Methodist Church by year:
The United Methodist Church shares a common history and heritage with other Methodist and Wesleyan bodies. The lives and ministries of John Wesley (1703–1791) and of his brother, Charles (1707–1788), mark the origin of their common roots.
The Churches Grow (1817-1843)
The Second Great Awakening was the dominant religious development among Protestants in America in the first half of the nineteenth century. Through revivals and camp meetings sinners were brought to an experience of conversion. Circuit riding preachers and lay pastors knit them into a connection.
The Slavery Question and Civil War (1844-1865)
John Wesley was an ardent opponent of slavery. Many of the leaders of early American Methodism shared his hatred for this form of human bondage. As the nineteenth century progressed, it became apparent that tensions were deepening in Methodism over the slavery question.
Reconstruction, Prosperity, and New Issues (1866-1913)
The Civil War dealt an especially harsh blow to The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Its membership fell to two-thirds its pre-war strength. Many of its churches lay in ruins or were seriously damaged.
World War and More Change, 1914–1939
In the years immediately prior to World War I, there was much sympathy in the churches for negotiation and arbitration as visible alternatives to international armed conflict. Many church members and clergy openly professed pacifism.
Movement Toward Union (1940-1967)
Although Methodists, Evangelicals, and United Brethren each had published strong statements condemning war and advocating peaceful reconciliation among the nations, the strength of their positions was largely lost with American involvement in the hostilities of World War II.
Developments and Changes Since 1968
When The United Methodist Church was created in 1968, it had approximately 11 million members, making it one of the largest Protestant churches in the world.