In the 1830’s the river town that would become Shreveport, Louisiana, was a frontier settlement often mired in the mud. It was merely a stop on the Texas Trail, welcoming the river boats and then watching the dust settle behind wagons headed west. The town prospered from its alluvial Red River soil and its port status, and it dealt with the flotsom — saloons, carousing, shootings.
First United Methodist Church was founded in this rough-and-tumble environment by a small society of Christians called Methodists. The church had no building and pastors were visiting circuit riders. It was still simply known as Shreveport Methodist Church in 1845 when it built the city’s first small meeting house on Market Street and shared it with the Baptists and Presbyterians.
Later it would be called the First Methodist Church – after it helped establish other Methodist churches in Shreveport. A denominational merger eventually would change the name to its current name of First United Methodist Church. The church, like Shreveport, would grow and prosper. It would move to the head of Texas Street and would become central to the life of the city. That would be one thing that would remain the same. Eventually, most of the other Shreveport churches would move to the burgeoning suburbs, but the Methodists would not. In 1960, pastor D.L. Dykes, Jr., phrased the philosophy, “I think every city needs a heart, a heart of religion. We chose to stay downtown and be that heart.”
Today First United Methodist Church lifts its steeple high above the city — a symbol of the same, simple hope that marked the church’s founding: the desire to serve God and reflect the abiding love of Jesus Christ.
The mission of the First United Methodist Church is to embrace and extend God’s grace while passionately growing servant leaders.
In the business world there is a lot of talk about core values. But what do we mean by that? While core values for churches may be similar, each church’s core values should relate to its personality, experience, genetics and style. Core values aren’t what we hope to be but who we are.
• Experiencing God – Our emphasis on experiencing God is sensed in our vibrant worship, Bible studies, small groups and an intense prayer ministry.
• Embracing Generations – FUMC has always been a church for all the generations with each generation embracing the next while appreciating the generations that have gone before.
• Pursuing Excellence – No matter what goes on at FUMC, we strive to do it with excellence, whether building on tradition or innovatively pursuing new ministries.
• Transforming Community – FUMC is a community of believers who seek both to be transformed by God and to transform the community around us as we live out what we believe.
To achieve our mission we must have focused initiatives. These three areas and their objectives were identified for maximum impact.
• Building Church Community – Creation of “Third Places”: informal, casual places to gather and share our lives. Involve all members of the congregation in at least one ongoing activity/group outside of worship.
• Leadership Development – Lay development through gifts inventories and pairing with ministries. Staff Leadership development through a systems analysis and coaching to function in a more effective, synergetic manner. Community Leadership development through development of a leadership institute.
• Community Impact – Develop an after-school program for children. Provide personal finance training for low income families. Provide childcare services for low income families entering the workforce.
United Methodists share a common heritage with all Christians. According to our foundational statement of beliefs in The Book of Discipline, we share the following basic affirmations in common with all Christian communities:
We describe God in three persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are commonly used to refer to the threefold nature of God. Sometimes we use other terms, such as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
We believe in one God, who created the world and all that is in it.
We believe that God is sovereign; that is, God is the ruler of the universe.
We believe that God is loving. We can experience God’s love and grace.
We believe that Jesus was human. He lived as a man and died when he was crucified.
We believe that Jesus is divine. He is the Son of God.
We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the risen Christ lives today. (Christ and messiah mean the same thing—God’s anointed.)
We believe that Jesus is our Savior. In Christ we receive abundant life and forgiveness of sins.
We believe that Jesus is our Lord and that we are called to pattern our lives after his.
• The Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is God with us.
We believe that the Holy Spirit comforts us when we are in need and convicts us when we stray from God.
We believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us to God’s will and empowers us to live obediently.
• Human Beings
We believe that God created human beings in God’s image.
We believe that humans can choose to accept or reject a relationship with God.
We believe that all humans need to be in relationship with God in order to be fully human.
• The Church
We believe that the church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
We believe that the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
We believe that the church is “the communion of saints,” a community made up of all past, present, and future disciples of Christ.
We believe that the church is called to worship God and to support those who participate in its life as they grow in faith.
• The Bible
We believe that the Bible is God’s Word.
We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
We believe that Christians need to know and study the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures).
• The Reign of God
We believe that the kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
We believe that wherever God’s will is done, the kingdom or reign of God is present. It was present in Jesus’ ministry, and it is also present in our world whenever persons and communities experience reconciliation, restoration, and healing.
We believe that although the fulfillment of God’s kingdom–the complete restoration of creation–is still to come.
We believe that the church is called to be both witness to the vision of what God’s kingdom will be like and a participant in helping to bring it to completion.
We believe that the reign of God is both personal and social. Personally, we display the kingdom of God as our hearts and minds are transformed and we become more Christ-like. Socially, God’s vision for the kingdom includes the restoration and transformation of all of creation.
With many other Protestants, we recognize the two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere. Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God’s love and forgiveness of our sins. Persons of any age can be baptized. We baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring. A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life. The Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist) The Lord’s Supper is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ. The Lord’s Supper recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God’s family. By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry. We practice “open Communion,” welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.