The history of First Church is long, rich, and complex. First Church was founded in 1854 by the same group of Methodists who also founded the town of Evanston, Northwestern University, and Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary). A hundred years ago, First Church was known as the “Cathedral of Methodism,” a model of effective organization, programming, and worship in the global Methodist denomination.
Our history includes legendary figures such as John Evans, Frances Willard, Maria Murray Robinson, Ernest Fremont Tittle, Georgia Harkness, Harold Bosley, and Dow Kirkpatrick. Guest preachers have included Martin Luther King, Jr.; Martin Luther King, Sr.; Marcus Borg; and Amy-Jill Levine. At our core we are are a congregation that has upheld a heritage of prophetic preaching, missional outreach, progressive values of social teaching and action, and a love of music.
The congregation benefits not only from outstanding preaching but from excellent music, resulting in outstanding and meaningful worship. Lively programs for children and youth have attracted new members in the last 20 years who are generally younger, more likely to have children, and who bring more diversity to our congregation.