Eye on KELOLAND: Sanctuary of hope, love and encouragement


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A Sioux Falls church is celebrating a significant milestone.

First United Methodist Church has been a part of the community since before South Dakota joined the Union as the 40th state.

First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls is celebrating the season during its Christmas Eve worship service. Reverend Sara Nelson says it’s a special time of the year.

“Just seeing people come together and worship god and the ways in which the church is just so generous and serves our neighbors and our neighborhoods,” Reverend Sara Nelson said.

Nelson joined First United Methodist in 2020, and is the first female senior pastor in the long and storied history of the church.

“I’m still getting to know people but people have been so warm and kind and generous with their time. It’s just been wonderful to build those relationships with the folks within the congregation and within the community as well,” Reverend Nelson said.

“She’s wonderful. She’s added a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm,” Mary Jane Richardson said.

“She’s delightful, she never quits smiling. I said I think she probably goes to bed smiling,” longtime member Carol Flynn said.

Sara’s first full year at the church is nearing its end. It was a significant one as First United Methodist celebrates its sesquicentennial.

“It’s been awesome to celebrate the 150th, just to see how god had been at work for so many years and also knowing that god’s not done with us yet and that we hope to have another 150 years,” Nelson said.

The church had a painting commissioned for the 150th anniversary. It was created by member Paul Boerboom and unveiled during Celebration Sunday in late September.

“We had former pastors and staff come back. We had lots of different festivities with banquets and luncheons and it was just really a time of rejoicing,” Nelson said.

“My grandparents came to Sioux Falls in 1922 and started coming, so we have a long association with this church,” third-generation member, Mary Jane Richardson, said.

Mary Jane Richardson is a third-generation member of First United Methodist.

“When I was a little girl they added the education wing and then in the 80’s when my son was young we added the multi-purpose room,” Richardson said.

“To be able to look back in history and see all the things we’ve done and all the people that have come before and really paved the way for us here in this neighborhood and in this area downtown was really fun,” longtime member, Lynne Jones, said.

Lynne Jones is a longtime member and former church employee. 25 years ago, Lynne’s love of music carried her through the doors.

“Hand bells have been a part of my life growing up in Kansas so when I moved to Sioux Falls that’s the first thing I looked for was a church that had a hand bell choir,” Lynne Jones said.

“Music draws people together and they’ll just come to listen to the different music that we have, the choirs and the hand bells and the children’s, oh my, the children’s choirs are growing again and the hand bells,” longtime member, Carol Flynn, said.

Carol Flynn was co-chair of the 150th Celebration and is well versed in the history of the church.

First United Methodist has been at its current location for more than 100 years, but started inside the walls of Fort Dakota in 1871. 150 years later, the historian envisions a bright future.

“I see a lot of young people coming now, younger people and their children and grandchildren. I love it when they bring in all these little ones for the choir and I start counting, how many are there, oh my there’s a lot more than there was last time,” Flynn said.

“To see what we’re doing now and how impactful that is in our community and then kind of dream for the future and what’s next for us and where we can make the biggest difference in this downtown community and in Sioux Falls,” Jones said.

There’s at least one change awaiting the church’s 1,200 members in 2022.

“We’re looking forward to launching a brand new worship service in this coming year and we have a lot of goals coming up and we’re excited to see where god will lead us,” Nelson said.

As Nelson looks to fulfill the vision of First United Methodist Church.

“Our vision is to be a sanctuary of Christian hope, love, and encouragement in the heart of Sioux Falls. I’m so excited to be part of living out that mission with our congregation together,” Nelson said.

In addition to worship services, First United Methodist offers preschool classes and after school care. They also partner with Feeding South Dakota to help feed members of the community.

Click HERE is you’d like to learn more about First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls.

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