Methodism began in Auburn with people meeting in homes and in schools whenever a circuit riding minister was in the area. On January 18, 1874 Henry Baldwin and his wife deeded the property where the present church now stands to the Methodist Church for $10.00.
The first church was built using timber from the many trees in the area. It had a sanctuary, a small cellar that was used to store coal and at the rear of the building there was a long open front building that sheltered the horses and buggies. And of course the “out houses” were also out back. The church was dedicated in 1875 and a part of that original building now hangs in our Fellowship Hall.
In 1894, when the population of Auburn was 1700, the first parsonage was built. It stood just east of the present parsonage. It was a large white house with high ceilings. It had a parlor, living room, dining room, kitchen and a summer kitchen, one bedroom downstairs, and several upstairs. It was heated with coal or wood. The house never had an indoor bathroom. Rain water was pumped from a wooden underground cistern by means of a small iron pump at the kitchen sink. Drinking water was hand pumped from a shallow well in the yard.
In 1956 a dining hall was connected to the church. It contained a kitchen, restrooms and a large all-purpose room. As more people moved into the area, more room was needed for the enlarging congregation. In 1960 the congregation voted to build a new church on the same site. The last service in the original building was held on February 16, 1964. The church was then razed, and the annex was donated to the city of Auburn and moved to Auburn Park for Scout activities and other similar uses.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the present sanctuary were held on March 22, 1964. Church services were held in the Auburn Elementary School gym, and the school rooms were used for Sunday school classes while the new church was being built. The new church cost $150,000. In 1968 the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined together, and we became the United Methodist Church. In 1980 a Fellowship Hall was added with a better equipped kitchen and with much more room than we had before. The present pastor’s and secretary’s offices were also added.
In 1996 we added an elevator at a cost of $125,886. This made it easier for many of our members and friends to attend worship services. Before the elevator there was a chair lift to assist people to the sanctuary, but there was no way for them to access the Sunday school rooms in the basement.
A Memorial Garden was dedicated on June 11, 2006, after the 10:45 service. The Garden is meant to be a sacred space to worship God and to remember loved ones whose ashes are interred there. Work bees were held to install fencing, the electrical system, to erect the entrance and the sitting arbor. The Memorial Garden was designed with the help of Bay Landscaping.
The first minister we have on record is H.H. Smith. Since then there have been 46 others. During that time we have had one female minister, Bessie M. Rullison. She served here between the years of 1921-1923. Duane Harris is the current pastor, and he has been in Auburn since 2009. The Auburn UMC has sent out at least four United Methodist pastors, a full-time medical missionary, other full time Christian workers, and many part-time/short-term missionaries.
Over the years there have been periods of growth, plateaus, and occasional declines in membership. Membership peaked at about 330 in the 1960’s, and is currently at 216.
In the 1960’s the “Mile of Dollars” mission project to build a church in Brazil seemed to involve the whole congregation. It was a high point of enthusiasm as we worked toward the goal.
In 1968 the Auburn church hosted the first “Lay Witness Mission” in Michigan. A period of growth in our congregation followed as our church sent out teams of lay people to churches around the state and even other states.
In the 1980’s a small group program called “Ten Brave Christians” again spurred a period of growth and enthusiasm in the people of the church. Several small groups met for study and prayer for several years.
The church’s youth program has waxed and waned, sometimes with the population trends and sometimes with the availability of youth and adult leadership. In the 1960’s, 1970’s, and into the 1980’s the Sunday school and Bible School programs were active and energetic. We are currently blessed with the leadership of a young couple who are passionate about young people and the church.
The United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men still have active groups. The United Methodist Men have a group of men active with the community garden and various other projects. The United Methodist Women who were very active on local, district, and conference levels in the 1970’s, 1980’s and even 1990’s currently have a very dedicated group of women. They continue with a dedication to missions – in the United States and abroad.
The church music program shows similar history. Starting small, we had reached at one point an 18 member chancel choir, children’s and junior choirs, adult and children’s bell choirs, and a Praise band and orchestra. Currently we are blessed by the ministries of a paid music coordinator and a keyboardist, both of whom are involved in leading the adult choir, children’s choir, occasional special music and a new contemporary style worship service now being offered once a month but in September of 2015 will be a weekly offering. Cantatas and newly supported children’s music programs are also part of the growing music ministry at AUMC.
In February of 2011, the pastor led a VIM team of 11 people to Manos Juntas in Rio Bravo, Mexico. The congregation raised funds to buy materials to build two homes for Mexican families. The team traveled there and built the two homes in a week’s time. In addition, some team members staffed a medical clinic and served all week caring for health needs. Other team members also provided a VBS in the city.
The United Methodist Men have sponsored a community garden in 2013- present, on the church grounds and offer vegetables free of charge to the community. There is a table located outside of the church’s entrance all summer long with bins of fresh vegetables from which anyone could came and glean.
In 2013 our Mission Team sponsored a project in Saginaw, Michigan titled “One Week On Street” during which church volunteers and businesses worked in Saginaw to renovate homes, clears lots, and plant a raised garden. Over 100 volunteers per day were involved in this project, and it is now an annual event thanks to the leadership of one of the passionate, dedicate lay members.
In the last several years AUMC has been involved in the Vital Church Initiative program and has been working to make many changes in order to serve our community and involve ourselves in real, relevant and authentic ministries that matter in people’s lives. In that process a vision was developed: “Creating a church where children and youth love to attend: 20/15; 30/16; 40/17.” A mission statement was also affirmed: “Connecting people with the life and love of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
As a result of this new vision, a Coordinator of Children’s Ministry was hired in 2014 which has resulted in new programs and growth in the number of children and families served as we continue this journey toward meaningful growth.
In all of this we are an evolving congregation recognizing that changes have been a part of our history, and they will continue to be part of our present and future. We are not perfect people but we are seeking to be faithful to listening for God’s call as we attempt to love God and neighbor as Christ so clearly calls us to do. We hope you will consider joining us on this journey.