Anniston First United Methodist Church
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Offering the Life-Changing Grace of Christ
Church 1833 to 1891
Lost in fire the Saturday before Easter
First service in present Sanctuary
The Chancel Choir 2006
James P. Roberts at the organ
Methodists came to Anniston with the foundries in the earliest days of this community. When the Woodstock Iron Company organized in 1872, it employed hard-working, creative stonemasons from England who happened to be Methodists. It’s not surprising that within weeks of beginning work on the foundry, these Methodists had organized the First Methodist Church of Anniston. Simon Jewell, a stone mason and Methodist preacher of Cornwall, England, helped build the Anniston Inn, Parker Memorial Baptist Church, The Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, and the First Christian Church on Leighton Avenue. Jewell and several others met informally, usually under the shade of an oak tree. Rev. John A. Thompson was called by the bishop to serve the small group.
First United Methodist Church officially began when Rev. R. A. Thompson called together a group of twelve in December 1881 under the branches of trees at Lloyd’s Spring, located in the vicinity of the intersection of West 14th Street and the railroad tracks. In a few weeks, the church had grown to 25 members. They met in a brush arbor, in homes and even in a blacksmith shop.
From the brush arbor, early pioneers progressed to a small frame structure located on Noble and Twelfth Streets. Church membership had grown to 250 in 1887. The church was then painted and carpeted and new pews were installed to seat 400. This building burned to the ground on the Saturday before Easter in 1892. Without a sanctuary, the group met in an old tin shop.
The group was determined that the Methodist Church should occupy a place of Christian leadership in the young community of Anniston. It was then that the two lots at 12th and Noble were exchanged for two lots at the corner of 14th and Noble, the present site. In 1893, a new sanctuary was erected on the present site. It was a red brick church, had Romanesque features and seated 800 people in a semi-circular arrangement. Early in the new century, an organ was added. The organ was driven at first by bellows and later by water.
By the mid 1940’s First Methodist has grown from twenty-five members at the time of organization to become one of the largest churches in the North Alabama Conference. The 1893 building had become cramped for space and outdated for the functions of a large modern congregation. After a hail and windstorm did severe damage to the building in April 1946, dreams began to merge into plans and on November 27, 1953, a recommendation build a new sanctuary was presented to a church conference and unanimously accepted. The dedication service of the new sanctuary, of early American architecture, with a seating capacity of 1000 and costing, with furnishings, $850,000, was held on April 14, 1957.
In 2007 we completed The Bridge, a new mission, community, and worship center. The hundreds of people who gather there for worship, who dine there for Meals of Mercy, who are restored through Interfaith Ministries, who are fed through Angel Food Ministries, and who study and grow and serve, all of them serve with the building itself as reminders that God is not finished with Anniston, and that God still intends for Anniston First to be the gospel’s bridge to the Anniston community.
The challenges that face Anniston are not behind us, but we know that God goes before us, just as God has in the past. Following our British brothers and sisters, who over 137 years ago responded in faith to the needs they saw in this community and organized a church, we continue to live out our lives as disciples, bringing to bear God’s love and mercy in a changing community and a new generation. But instead of being here to build foundries, we are here to build God’s kingdom, right from the heart of downtown Anniston, one disciple at a time.
The Chancel Window
Produced by Willet Studios of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The chancel window, a memorial was designed to carry out the best traditions of stained glass in the manner of the windows in the eleventh and twelfth century Gothic Cathedrals of Europe. The same methods are used today in making stained glass.
In the large bottom division is the Nativity scene, the Babe in the manger, an adoring Mary and Joseph bending over Him with a lantern. The ox and ass are shown as well as a lamb. This is flanked on the left with three adoring shepherds and on the right by the three wisemen who have been led by the star which sheds a ray upon the Holy Child.
Above this is the crucifixion. The Virgin Mary and John, the beloved disciple, are kneeling on either side of the crucified Christ. On the left is Christ, with bound hands, before Pilate who is shown washing his hands of guilt. On the right is Christ praying in the garden of Gethsemane. His gaze is directed towards a chalice: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39) In the distance are the disciples Peter, James and John, who failed to keep watch, asleep.
In large scale, extending through the two top sections is the resurrected Lord. He is shown, surrounded by arrayed light, stepping from the empty tomb carrying the banner of the Church Triumphant. Flanking this on the lower left is the angel who rolled away the stone. Opposite the angel is one of the soldiers. Above the angel is Christ in the garden with Mary Magdalene. Jesus is holding a spade indicating that Mary first mistook Him for the gardener. Above the Roman centurion is Thomas’ great confession on feeling the wound prints in Our Lord's side: “And Thomas answered and said unto Him, my Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
In the border at the top are symbols to represent the tree members of the Trinity, the hand of God extended in benediction; next at the peak is the lamb of God symbolizing the Son; next is the dove, symbol the Holy Spirit. Also in the border of the top section are two angels, one with a harp symbolizing praise and one with a censor symbolizing prayer.
The remainder of the border contains thirteen medallions symbolizing the great “I am” pronouncements of Christ by which He established that He was “all things to all men” These are as follows: “I am Alpha and Omega”, “I am the Messiah”, “I am the bread of life”, “I am from above’, “I am the eternal one”, “I am the door”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the Son of God”, “I am the resurrection and life”, “I am the Lord and master”, “I am the true vine”, and “I am the living water”.
In the lower corners are symbols of the two sacraments of the church, left - Baptism, with the dove indicating the descent of the Holy Spirit, and an a shell with three drops of water; right - Communion, the chalice and paten with the wheat and grapes.
The Pipe Organ
The organ was built by the Schlicker Organ Company, Inc., of Buffalo, New York. Herman Schlicker and his associates took some pipes from the Kimball organ in the previous sanctuary to their factory in Buffalo, N.Y. where the pipes were completely rebuilt and voiced and then incorporated into the present instrument. The actual construction of the organ in Buffalo took twenty men three months to build.
The organ consist of four complete divisions - three on the manuals (Great, Swell and Choir) and the pedal division. The Swell and Great are located on the right side of the Chancel, and the Choir and Pedal at the left. The pipes range in size from sixteen feet in length to three-eighths of an inch. The total number of pipes in the organ is 3,037 and there are 47 ranks of pipes.
The console has three manuals and the pedal board. There are 67 tablets controlling the stops and the couplers. To facilitate the changing of stops during the course of a service or recital, there are 29 combination pistons, which are adjustable at the console and visibly operate stop tablets.
The organ is voiced on low wind pressure with little or no nicking of the pipes, this assuring a blend not only in its own ensemble, but also when it is used in ensemble with singers and/or other instruments. This method of voicing was employed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but after that time nearly became a lost art. Since the Schlicker firm began the return of this type of voicing, it has achieved international prominence throughout the Western world.