THE VERY BEGINNING–THE CITY OF NORWALK
The town of Norwalk was part of the land given as compensation to persons who suffered losses during British raids on Connecticut towns during the American Revolution. Some of the towns burned were Norwalk, New Haven, Danbury, Ridgefield, Fairfield, New London, Lyme, Groton and Greenwich, all common place names in “New Connecticut”, the Firelands.
Methodism in the Firelands area goes back to 1811 and the Rev. William Gurley. Rev. Gurley was born in Wexford, Ireland in 1757 and became a Methodist at a time when Methodists were considered dissenters and were looked down upon. At the age of thiry Gurley was priveliged to meet John Wesley, who licensed him to preach. When Civil War broke out in Ireland in 1798, Gurley moved to Connecticut and later settled in northern Ohio. It was there Rev. Gurley conducted the first Methodist services in a log schoolhouse.
THE DAYS OF THE CIRCUIT RIDER
The first Methodist Church Society of Norwalk was organized in 1823 with seven members with two circuit-rider preachers, Rev. Tru Pattee and James McIntyre. The society met in various homes of the members, in the schoolhouse and in the home of James Wilson. From 1823 to 1834 twenty itinerant pastors helped build up and supervise the Norwalk Society.
THE FIRST CHURCH
Having grown too large to meet comfortably in a private home, on November 24, 1829,the Methodist Society purchased a lot from Elisha Whittlesey and built a church on the lot facing Seminary Street. Unfortunately these early Methodists were unable to meet their obilgation and in the year 1845, the property was sold at sheriff’s sale. In 1846 an organization was formed called the “Methodist Meeting House Association”. Anyone could become a member by the payment of $10 and signing the Constitution. The purpose of this organization was to raise money to redeem the church property on Seminary Street. They succeeded in raising enough to regain the property on may 14, 1846.
THE SECOND CHURCH
After occupying the first church for nearly a quarter of a century, it was decided that the building had become too small and uncomfortable for the growing congregation now numbering 94. At a called meeting of the members of the society on December 26, 1853, it was decided to build a new church. The trustees immediately took possession of the lot on the corner of West Main Street and Whittlesey Avenue (later known as Benedict Avenue). The first load of stone was delivered and deposited early in January 1854. During the following summer, work was suspended due to the outbreak of cholera, which brought everything to a standstill. Work was resumed in May of 1855. Dedication services for the new church were held in 1868 with a membership of 143.
The final services in this church were held in May 1893.
THE PRESENT CHURCH
In July 1893 the Board of Trustees purchased the lot on the corner of West Main Street and State Street from John Gardiner. A Committee on Plans and Architect was formed and they hired S.R. Badgley of Cleveland to draft plans and specifications for the new church. On June 29, 1896, the tablet on the southeast corner of the present church was set. A copper-lined box containing a Bible, Hymnal, photos, etc. was placed in the wall just back of the stone tablet and built into the masonry. Dedication of the present church (minus the education wing) took place on February 14, 1897.
Construction on the Education Wing began in early 1969 and was completed in Feburary 1970. Remodeling of the sanctuary and rotunda area began in 1971. The service of consecration for the remodeled sanctuary was held on Sunday, June 1, 1975. In 1985 the rotunda was completed and the pastor’s offices were moved upstairs along with the business offices. This was the last major change made to the church.