During the early years of the church, probably twenty or so, Sunday services were held in the morning and afternoon, with Sunday school at noon. Those coming from a distance brought their lunch and stayed through. No evening services were held, and while a choir existed, there was no organ. A tuning fork supplied pitch. On some Sunday evenings, a singing school session was held. This was a social opportunity and a musical one as well, since music was not taught in the public schools.
The roots of the East Longmeadow Methodist Church run deep, for it was in the summer of 1853 that the first Board of Trustees purchased land for the first building. They were really serious about it, dedication services taking place in the completed building in November of that same year. Located right at what would become the town's infamous rotary, the building also became know as "the Church of the Seven Roads," a name that would remain for many years.
Since that time, fifty-two senior pastors and three associates have preached to the congregation, supported the membership spiritually, and generally administered the whole church program of community service and outreach. They have coped with fluctuating memberships, with budgets that have soared far beyond anything conceivable to the founders, and guided the church through the agonies of replacing a much loved but sadly outgrown original building with the modern edifice on Somers Road at Chestnut Street, which has been the church's home since 1970.
Locally, Methodist preachers appeared first in Hampden in 1792, coming up from Hartford, Connecticut. They met in the kitchen of Abner Chapin. Charles Brewer of Wilbraham was quite impressed and offered his home as a meeting place. People met there until the first Methodist church in the area was started in Wilbraham in 1793. In 1852, a group of young men heard Dr. Minor Raymond speak and because his preaching appealed to them, made arrangements for a Methodist minister to preach in East Longmeadow. The first meetings were held in the kitchen of Wilder Sage, but an increasing attendance required a larger space and the school house, located in the center on the site of the present Town Hall, became the meeting place.
In March 1853, a decision was made to form a Methodist church in East Longmeadow and trustees were named. George Cooley purchased the lot next to the tavern for $300 from Henry Crooks and turned the deed over to the trustees. Begun during the summer, the new building was completed in a very short time as dedication services were held on November 22, 1853.
As the church grew, so did the need for a move to a larger building. A capital fund drive to raise the necessary money for a building program was conducted from October 21 to November 3 1964. After an architect had been chosen and designs approved, many months elapsed during which building costs soared. The first plans were set aside to be replaced by new ones, which it was hoped would be less expensive. Still more time elapsed. By the end of 1968, enough money had been raised and the church and church properties were sold. On March 23, 1969, ground was broken at the new site.
While construction of the new building was in progress, services were held at the Masonic Hall, with Sunday school classes taking place in various parish homes. On May 31, 1970, the new sanctuary was completed and the first service was held attended by three hundred and fifteen people.
The church has long been committed to a strong youth program. It has been handled by lay people, committees, part-time Youth Advisors, Associate Pastors, a full-time Director and now by trained volunteers. The youth program has grown over the years, continues to be a strong point, and is a healthy sign for the future.
The church's mission has been to provide for regular worship services and educational opportunities for all ages and to reach out to the community with various social programs. Indicative of the goals of the church is its current vision statement:
"As disciples of Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, we welcome the risks involved in following God's call to engage in ministries that raise the level of hope for those who cry out for love and justice."
In 1996, the Pioneer Valley Free Health Service, a program that provides free health service to those who are uninsured or under insured, was founded by church members and sponsored by the church. This program continues to provide health care every Wednesday evening in this community at their new location at 281 Maple Street. Other efforts of the church include support and participation in the Greater Springfield Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, as partners in Circles of Faith for 2 homes. Helping to provide meals for the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen and providing helpers and supplies for the New Horizon Shelter for needy families in the Springfield area are two other local ministries in which the East Longmeadow United Methodist Church is involved.
The East Longmeadow Methodist Church has a history of being a vibrant and giving church and is continuing that tradition to this day.