The United Methodist Church is a global denomination, so many may be surprised to know that there is a National United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Its history dates to May of 1852 when a group of Methodists from the Washington, D.C. area began an effort to create a church to represent the Methodist Episcopal denomination in the nation’s capital.
The following is from the National UMC website history:
After gaining approval from the Methodist General Conference and raising funds from Methodist churches across the country–and a $100 contribution from Abraham Lincoln–the land was purchased at the corner of 4th and C Streets, NW D.C. in the shadow of the Capitol Building, and construction began.
The Civil War and poor economy halted construction at the foundations. It would not resume again until 1866. Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church was dedicated on February 28, 1869, with its first members joining on Easter Sunday, March 28, 1869. In 1871 a 240-foot spire and 11 bell chime set were dedicated as well.
Metropolitan Memorial members met regularly for worship on Sunday mornings and evenings, and for prayer meetings during the week. During his presidency (1869–1877), Ulysses S. Grant regularly attended services at the church.
The Sunday school had classes for both adults and children, and beginning in 1881, a class for Chinese immigrants. In 1894 when the church celebrated 25 years in ministry, Metropolitan Memorial had 549 members, an average attendance of 280 in Sunday school, and approximately one quarter of its $9,600 budget going to missions, charities and other ministries of the church.
At the turn of the century, President William McKinley (1897-1901) also regularly attended services at Metropolitan Memorial. As the city of Washington grew in the early decades of the twentieth century, its neighborhoods changed and the church found itself in an area with a declining residential population. The church property was sold to the government, closed its doors on December 31, 1930, and decided to relocate to the present location at 3401 Nebraska Ave. NW.
In 1931 the sanctuary was under construction, the congregation had temporary quarters at American University in what is now The Navy Chapel. On February 7, 1932, the new building was dedicated. The membership had declined to less than 400, but began to grow at a steady rate. By 1938 the church had built a parsonage and was beginning plans to build an education building. But World War II put those plans on hold.
After the war, Metropolitan Memorial began to get crowded; the congregation was growing, the Sunday school was growing, and a wide range of new activities began. In 1951, the education building was finished, and in 1957, the sanctuary was expanded. As Metropolitan Memorial celebrated its centennial in 1969, the church reached a new numerical peak, worshipping over 600 every Sunday.
In the 1970’s, the church began a period of increasing outreach both in Washington, D.C. and around the world. During the next two decades, the church established a homeless shelter, Metropolitan House, within the walls of the church. The congregation became a founding member of the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), which advocates on numerous issues related to homelessness in D.C. The church's strong commitment to issues related to homelessness and hunger remains.
The 1999 addition of the Great Hall and administrative offices poised the church to continue its ministry in the twenty-first century.
Metropolitan Memorial and Eldbrooke United Methodist churches merged on July 1, 2005, and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church joined in the merger on May 26, 2009. The congregation converted the church at St. Luke’s into a Mission Center, expanding the church’s role in addressing issues of homelessness. The merger with St. Luke’s added a second shelter in addition to a hypothermia shelter and a hostel that the church makes available for groups doing mission work in the city. On December 17, 2010, the church entered into an agreement with Friendship Place for them to move their executive offices into St. Luke’s Mission Center.
The same year, Metropolitan Memorial and Wesley United Methodist Church joined together in a cooperative parish relationship and have now fully merged and are known by one name: National United Methodist Church.