Church History

Napa Methodist Church woodcut by Steve Weeks

Following in the path of JudeoChristian history, the Methodist church is an outgrowth of the Anglican church, which split from the Roman Catholic church at the time of King Henry VIII. John Wesley was a priest in the Church of England in the 18th century. He and his brother Charles began a small religious club at Oxford University with students there. This club was scornfully referred to as “the methodists” because of their disciplined life-style.

Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed in a religious awakening in 1738 that launched a revival ministry for the next 53 years. He traveled throughout England preaching and teaching and organizing small groups called societies. As Methodist Society members emigrated to America, they brought with them the teachings and style of Wesley’s faith and works religion.

Methodism spread across America with traveling circuit riders and arrived in California along with the gold rush. The Rev Samuel Simonds organized the first class meeting (in the courthouse) in Napa in 1851. The first house of worship for the tiny congregation of 12 members was built behind a sawmill in St. Helena in 1852. By 1853 a congregation of 44 was worshipping regularly in Napa. After a fire destroyed the old wooden church building in Napa, build in 1856, a new brick church was built in 1867 on the corner of Fifth and Randolph Streets. This building was razed to make way for the current sanctuary building, built in 1917. Church growth in the 1950’s brought the need for additional space and a social hall (Centennial Hall) was build on the corner of 4th and Randolph in 1952. The educational building (named for former pastor Warren Bonner) was added in 1955. In April, 2001 Centennial Hall, which was dedicated to former pastor Ken Adams, was converted to Hope Day Center, a daytime drop-in center for the homeless of Napa.

The church now has a membership of approximately four hundred, houses a weekday nursery school, hosts numerous classes and meetings for community groups as well as church programs, and is a focal point of downtown Napa.