First United Methodist Church: A History

Casper was a frontier town in 1893 when the First Methodist Episcopal Church - a mission church - was built at Second and Durbin Streets. Across the street, where the Natrona County Public Library now stands, was an encampment of Indians. Four minis¬ters served the church in the first fifteen months.

In 1898, the twenty-two members of the church and some of the townspeople raised enough money to secure a bell which is mounted in the present tower. To serve the growing church, a second structure was built and dedicated as the Gantz Memorial Meth¬odist Church in 1907. The old church was moved to the back of the lot and used as a dining room and for classes. In 1915, those needs were addressed by elevating the entire church and installing a full basement. A new educational wing, on the east side of the church, was started in 1927 and com¬pleted and furnished by 1935. This wing also contains the Koinonia Room, parlor, and Hardesty Chapel. Land at Eighth and South Center Streets was purchased but was sold in 1948 after the decision was made to remain a downtown church. The old white clapboard church was razed and, in the summer of 1950, construc-tion on the present sanctuary and Fellowship Hall was begun. The Resurrection window, a gift of the Gantz family, was moved from the old Sanctuary to the new. A consecration service was held December 16, 1951. With the mort¬gage paid off, the church was dedicated dur¬ing the Wyoming State Conference on June 2, 1954, under the leadership of The Rever¬end Charles A. Nowlen.

Since then additional stained glass windows installed in several places, the pipe organ from the 1950's replaced by a new Casavant pipe organ in 1977, and the suspended sanctuary cross was installed. The church has grown from occupying only the corner lots at Second and Durbin with the acquisition of the Wyoming Paint and Glass store in 1954, and the corner property at Second and Beech in 1983, which is now the Asbury Center and church office. The most re¬cent addition was the King's Corner Youth Center in 1990 at First and Beech, once a Safeway grocery store. The church celebrated its 100th birthday in 1993 with a membership of approximately 1680. Today (2017) we have 965 members.

The Windows

The Windows

THE RESURRECTION WINDOW. This window depicts the scene at the tomb. In 1904, when construction of a new church was begun, Leslie Lee Gantz pre¬sented the beautiful Resurrection Window to the church in memory of his wife, Mary Elizabeth Samuel Gantz. Originally, the window was placed on the south wall of the sanctuary where the Wyo¬ming winds caused serious damage to the glass. In 1950, the frame church was demol¬ished, and the window was sent to Denver for repairs. It is now located in the chancel at the north end of the sanctuary for all to enjoy as they enter.

THE GREAT COMMISSION WINDOW. In this window above the balcony, Christ had risen, but not yet ascended into heaven, when one day He gathered His eleven apostles on a hillside to give them the com¬mand "Go ye therefore and teach all na¬tions." These words were to drive the church from tiny beginnings to fill the world. He commanded them to preach the Gospel, sym¬bolized by the book, and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The escallop shell of baptism is superimposed on the book, and the water of life pours down. The trinity is symbolized at the top of each lancet: the hand of God the Father extended in benediction, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world - the Son, and the descending dove of the Holy Spirit over Christ's head. Christ stands on the globe of the earth and the Apostles turn outward from Him on their mission.

The Great Commission Window above the balcony and side windows were designed and executed by Willet Stained Glass Studios of Philadelphia and were dedicated on May 21, 1967. They lead to the Resurrection Window located in the north end of the sanctuary.

SIDE WINDOWS:

The four stained glass windows on the side of the sanctuary, starting with the southwest win¬dow by the balcony, represent:

THE INCARNATION

THE INCARNATION

This window portrays: 1) The Holy Family, 2) The boy Jesus in the temple, 3) John baptizing Jesus, 4) Jesus call¬ing Peter and Andrew, 5) Jesus' temptation by the devil, and 6) The first miracle (water into wine).

CHRIST PREACHING AND TEACHING

CHRIST PREACHING AND TEACHING

Christ is shown: 1) Reading the Torah, 2) Giving the Ser¬mon on the Mount, 3) Preaching from the boat, 4) Teach¬ing, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's," 5) Speaking with Nicodemus, and 6) Admonishing, "Except ye become as little children, ye shall no enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."

CHRIST THE PHYSICIAN

CHRIST THE PHYSICIAN

This window shows: 1) Christ curing the man with palsy, 2) Giving sight to the blind, 3) Healing the leper, 4) The woman touching the hem of His garment, 5) Christ helping Jarius’ little daughter, and 6) The Centurion asking help for his sick servant.

CHRIST’S PASSION

CHRIST’S PASSION

Portrayed is 1) The last Supper, 2)Praying in the garden of Gethsemane, 3) Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, 4) Peter’s denial, 5) Christ before Pilate, and 6) The Crucifixion.

The Organ

The organ was built in 1976 by Casavant Freres Limitée of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. It is a modern instrument constructed according to the tonal and mechanical prin¬ciples of the classic organs of Europe. A three-manual organ with thirty stops and forty ranks, it has a total of 2,012 pipes.

Before this instrument was put on the drawing board a thorough study of the acoustical and physical properties of the church was conducted by Casavant’s tonal director, Gerhard Brunzema.

The organ was dedicated on Sunday, April 17, 1977, featuring the church organist, Donna McIntire. Her former professor, Gerhard, Krapf, then of the University of Iowa, was the advisor on the organ, and performed a second dedicatory recital on Sunday, May 8, 1977.