First United Methodist Church had its beginnings long before the area was settled by Dutch immigrants. A number of families of English descent had come to this area for various reasons during the 1830's and 1840's. Some had come to work with the Native Americans; some had come to see new land opportunities; and some had followed other family members. Several of these families later helped in the founding of the Methodist church in Holland.
When the Dutch arrived in 1847, led by the Revered Albertus C. Van Raalte, these earlier settlers worshiped with Van Raalte for fourteen years. The services were in Dutch and the doctrines were those of John Calvin. By 1850 there were 5000 Dutch people in the area.
One of the principles of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was for an individual to have a personal relationship with God and many of the early settlers wanted this. In 1861, Isaac Fairbanks, who had come to this area in 1844 as a government agricultural agent to assist the Native Americans, determined that a Methodist congregation might be formed, since no English-speaking church existed in Holland. By this time the little town was fairly well settled, with many frame houses and stores lining the dirt streets.
The Methodist Church was widely established across southern Michigan and it was considered the most "American" of church bodies because its development coincided with that of our country. By the mid 1800's it was the largest denomination in the United States, with over one million members. Most of these Methodist congregations in Michigan were small and were served by circuit-riding pastors. Following this pattern, in 1861, Holland became a part of a circuit of four charges -Fillmore, Hamilton, Holland and Ventura. It was called the Holland Circuit of the Methodist Church. The original congregation numbered eleven.
Thus, the first English-speaking church in Holland, Michigan was founded. For this new circuit of the church, the preacher earned $300 that year. The small group met in the log fire hall, at that time located on property that is now part of Centennial Park. This building was also used as a town hall and the local "lock up." It is interesting to note that it was not until 1862 that the Dutch established their first English-speaking church, known as Second Reformed, later named Hope Church.