Tuesday, July 11, 2017

180 Years of Methodism in Brighton

The City of Brighton celebrates its 150th anniversary on August 13. I took some time this week to read again about the history of First United Methodist Church of Brighton. We are fortunate to have members of the faith community who collected our church's history and wrote about it. 

Brighton First was already a thriving faith community 150 years ago. Methodist preachers started visiting Ore Creek (later to be named Brighton) in 1830. Not long after a Methodist class was formed in the town and Methodists began meeting in people’s homes. The group received its first pastor in 1843 and they worshipped in the school house on Grand River Avenue. In 1856, the Methodists built the first church on the same property as our current church building. Visitors to the new city of Brighton were greeted by the large brick Methodist-Episcopal church as they came from the east.

In 1867, the founding year for the City of Brighton, Rev. Thomas Nichols was pastor of the church. He reported earning $675 annually. The church building was valued at $3,000. The Ladies Aid Society, a forerunner of the United Methodist Women, was an important part of the church’s ministry.

Here are some fun facts about the history of Brighton First:
  • Traveling by horseback, Washington Jackson helped to found Methodist classes in 1836, including Brighton, Fowlerville, Fenton and Milford.
  • A Methodist evangelist came to town in the late 1830’s. He preached from a balcony of a blacksmith shop. People flocked to hear him. The building filled up and the balcony gave way. Several people were injured. A few days later, more people signed up for the Methodist class.
  • The first pastor appointed in Brighton was Rev. George King (1843). He was the junior preacher from Milford. In 1844, King’s 4-year-old daughter died and was the fourth person buried in the local cemetery. King was buried there 6 years later.
  • The first church built on this property (1856) cost $1,600.
  • In 1870, Rev. John Levington refused communion to Elia Withey, a member of the Brighton congregation because he was a Mason. The dispute went to the Annual Conference and Levington was forced to retire.
  • In 1873, Mrs. York, wife of the pastor, was granted a local preacher’s license. It was very unusual that a woman be given license to preach in the Methodist church at that time.
  • With plans to build a new church, the old church was torn down in 1904. This is what the Brighton Argus reported, “On account of the busy times, the ladies of the Methodist Episcopal Aid Society turned out Tuesday to help tear down the old church. It is said the brick flew like hailstones.”
  • The church closed from 1915 – 1920. The parsonage was rented and the church building was used by Boys’ Christian Association and the Red Cross.
  • The church reopened in 1920 after the Ladies Aid Society raised enough money to pay a pastor for one year.
    Methodists have been witnessing for Jesus Christ in the City of Brighton for over 180 years.
A picture of the four corners at Main St. and Grand River Ave. in Brighton.

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