Methodist History: Church of Presidents

There's a United Methodist landmark that's worth a look next time you visit Washington, D.C. National United Methodist Church (a merger of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist and Wesley UMC) has been the church home of past U.S. presidents and Supreme Court justices. In 2016, we took a tour. 

Script:

Washington, DC

Ann Michel: “People from all around the country helped to give birth to this. Abraham Lincoln was among the contributors who gave money to create the original church building.”

At National United Methodist Church, visitors can walk in the footsteps of U.S. Supreme Court justices or sit in the pews of presidents. The original church building was on Capitol Hill in D.C. and many government leaders became active members, like Ulysses Grant and William McKinley.

Founded in 1852 and completed after the Civil War, the National Church is the only church in the denomination formed by an act of the General Conference. Ann Michel likes to share her church’s story.

Ann Michel: “The idea was to create a church that would be a representative presence of Methodism here in the Nation’s Capital, and also to be a home, to be a worship place for the wayfarers, for different people who came to Washington, D.C. by virtue of this being the seat of government.”

By the late 1800’s, the congregation included nearly 550 members and offered a Sunday school for Chinese immigrants.

In the 1930’s, the church moved to its current location in Northwest D.C. near American University, which was also founded by the Methodist Church.

Visitors to National United Methodist marvel at the stained glass windows, vaulted ceiling, gothic details, and the plaques on the pews for each state.

Members in more modern times have included President Nixon and family and Supreme Court Justice Harry S. Blackmun.

Today, the National Church seeks to set an example in areas of social justice, community outreach and inclusiveness. Ministries include a transitional housing shelter and a food program which serves 1300 meals a week to those in need.

Ann Michel: “This church is deeply engaged in the local community, and really has a very important ministry here in the City of the District of Columbia, work with the homeless, work with the hungry, work in community revitalization and affordable housing. My feeling is, unless we can be a leader in our own community we really can’t claim to be a national leader.”

Bill Potts: “I love that we have the history. Just the beautiful façade. But we also have the beautiful spirit inside.”

 

For more information, contact National United Methodist Church at 202-363-4900.

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
Media contact is Joe Iovino.

This video was first posted on November 3, 2016 and updated in February 2019.