After 144 years, First United Methodist Church to close its doors

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FORT MYERS, Fla.- After 144 years of worship, prayer will soon come to an end inside the First United Methodist Church in downtown Fort Myers.

A rich history of the city’s elites and everyday people came together to find comfort and prayer in the church’s pews.

“Mayor Oscar Corbin, Mina Edison, social service workers, counselors…” said Reverend Melanie Fierbaugh. “If you were to poll Fort Myers, I think you would find that most of the professions have some sort of direct connection to the ministries of this church.”

On May 22, the final Sunday worship at the church will take place.

Between a congregation that’s dwindling, and attending fewer services, to bills starting to stack up, the doors will be closing permanently.

“Some of the hardest things that we do are going to bring the biggest blessings and this is a very hard step and there will be very many tears,” Fierbaugh said.

But with a history nearly a century and half long, the stories to tell are endless.

“From the formation of Fort Myers, before it was incorporated, this church was ministering to reach people with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Archives found deep inside the congregation tell the story of a rich history of faith and tradition.

“They were picking up the children for Sunday school classes and you can see that they’re on a dirt road,” said Fierbaugh describing an image from the past.

Fierbaugh adds, “this sanctuary has hosted weddings and funerals, and baptisms, and confirmations.”

Grace Church will be moving into the building this summer. Ironically, Fierbaugh says Grace Church was birthed from the First United Methodist Church.

“I think that is God’s way of saying his hand is in it and we don’t have to be afraid. He will work his will in our community.”

A preschool at the congregation will remain open under the First United Methodist Church. The keys to the sanctuary will officially be turned over at the end of June.

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