Editor's note: This is part of a series of stories and pictures by The Joplin Globe’s Jerry Willis that focuses on both the history and architecture of our area churches.
Joplin First United Methodist Church stands like a castle above the corner of Fourth Street and Byers Avenue; the church and its adjuncts occupy the entire block.
But its beginning was humble. The congregation is an old one, tracing its roots to a group of Methodists that formed the First Methodist Episcopal Church in April 1872 in Joplin. Services were held in Bouchers & Bullocks Place saloon. A couple of church buildings were then occupied at different spots on Fourth Street before the current structure was built.
In 1905, Charles Carstang and Alfred W. Rea, architects practicing as the firm of Garstang and Rea, designed the permanent home of what became Joplin First United Methodist Church, according to the National Register of Historic Places. First worship services were held on June 3, 1906.
The church has expanded over the years. In 1927, an education wing was added. In 1961, the church built an education annex. The Family Life Center was added in 1993.
Also in 1961, the church reincorporated as the First United Methodist Church of Joplin. With the joining of the Methodist and United Brethren denominations in 1968, the church took its current name, Joplin First United Methodist Church.
Music is an important part of the congregation’s worship. The church has a large Wicks pipe organ installed in 1942 with the casework and chimes retained from the original 1905 organ.
Three large stained glass windows overlook the sanctuary from high on the east, west and south walls. Each tells a Gospel story. The east window depicts Mark 6:16 with the inscription, “He is not here. He is risen.” The west depicts young Jesus in the temple, based on Luke 2:49. The south is based on Matthew 19:14 and is inscribed “Let the children come to me.”
“We give thanks for those pioneers in the faith who helped to share the good news of Jesus Christ in the earliest days of Joplin’s history,” said the Rev. Marsha West Eichler, the church’s pastor. “They have left us a powerful legacy.”