Sylva First United Methodist Church, one of the oldest churches in the community,was founded in December 1888. Following a revival led by the Rev. G.W. Spake, a group of Sylvans met in the home of John and Estella Divelbiss to establish a Methodist Episcopal Church, South in Sylva. With the help of the Rev. Frank Siler they formed the Sylva Methodist Church. During the early years of Sylva Methodist Church, the congregation met in schools and homes wherever space was available.
By 1897, construction of a small frame church started on Jackson Street where the church is still located. Within nine years, the congregation had outgrown the little church building. The original frame building demolished in order to construct a brick building with larger facilities. Construction began in late March of 1917. On the first Sunday of 1918, services were held in the new building.
As the church’s Sunday School program grew, the congregation needed additional space and the Allison Education Building was added to the brick church in 1942. By this time, the heating system of the brick building was inefficient and new lighting was needed. Renovations could not start until World War II ended and a substantial fund accumulated through those years. The renovation work was completed in 1950. Traditional services are still held in the renovated sanctuary today.
Between 1950 and 1978, Sylva First United Methodist Church continued to grow. By 1975, a long-range planning effort determined that Sylva First was in need of additional space. On the occasion of Homecoming in 1978, ground was broken for the new education building. The construction was completed in March of 1980. On May 25th of 1980, the new facility was consecrated to the Lord. The fellowship hall was named The Asbury Room in honor of Mr. Asbury Carden, who had dedicated the preceding two years to acting as supervisor of the work. Rev. Terry L. Hammill, pastor during the building process, returned for the dedication ceremony on September 25, 1983.
Moving into the new century, Sylva FUMC has focused on doing God’s work. Groups of individuals have made mission trips to Mexico, impoverished areas of the south, Bosnia, the Gulf Coast, and as recently as 2012, a team helped with rebuilding in Alabama following devastating tornadoes. During these years, local missions have also been a focus of the church. FUMC supported the development of United Christian Ministries, the introduction of the Chaplaincy Program at Harris Hospital, and the birth of the Community Table.
By the start of the new century, church leaders realized the need for a larger facility to serve both the church membership and the community and began planning a Christian Life Center. Construction began in spring of 2004 and the building opened for use in fall of 2006. A consecration service was held in December of 2006. Today, the CLC provides a site for numerous community events, for sports activities and houses our Praise & Worship Service at 9:00 am each Sunday morning.
Sylva FUMC continues to grow. As we celebrate our 125th birthday in 2013, we are moving ahead into the next twenty-five years focused on continuing to serve the Lord through worship and an active missions program.