First United Methodist Church, Lexington, was formed in 1789, meeting at first in a small cabin on the east end of town. It was the first Methodist church west of the Allegheny Mountains. After a rapid period of growth in the early 1800's, during which time the congregation outgrew additional church buildings, it moved in 1840 to a lot on High Street and built a new church. That original lot lies under half of the current sanctuary. Further growth led to enlargement of the 1840 church twice, before, due to a generous bequest of a member, the building was removed and the current sanctuary erected in 1907.
Even during that period, growth did not stop. About a third of the congregation left to found what is today Centenary United Methodist in 1866. Other members were sent to found Park, Epworth (now Embrace/Epworth), Southern Hills, Hope Springs and other Methodist churches and missions, including St. Paul AME church.
While we were serving as the "mother church" for Lexington’s Methodist churches, the 1907 building was enlarged, more land was acquired for expansion and parking, an children’s wing was added in 1954 facing Upper Street, a major wing stretching to the west was built in 1984 (where the West Chapel and Gathering Hall are today), and historic Rokeby Hall on S. Mill Street was purchased and now houses Church offices.
Most recently, First Methodist changed its pattern of growth and established a second campus on Todds Road and added yet another service in the West Chapel.
For over two hundred years, First Church has provided clergy and lay leadership as one of the leading Methodist churches in Kentucky, while pursuing its many missions. Notably, five ministers who served the First Church pulpit became bishops, and one of its members was elected to the United Methodist Judicial Council. Countless lay members have served in leadership positions across the United Methodist Church.