Second United Methodist Church began as a Sunday School organized in Northwest Knoxville prior to October, 1868, when the Rev. John C. Tate was appointed as the first pastor. The first building, a frame structure, was under construction on the site of our present sanctuary when it was destroyed by a storm in April, 1873.
The second building was constructed of bricks hand made by the men of the church with a red cross of slate in the roof. This building, dedicated on Sunday, October 5, 1873, by Bishop Gilbert Haven, was completed during the pastorate of the Rev. John F. Spence.
As the congregation outgrew the building space, a new brick structure with more adequate facilities was erected in 1907 under the leadership of the Rev. W. S. Grant. At this time the name of the church was changed from Asylum Street to The Second Methodist Episcopal Church. When the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Methodist Protestant Church united in 1939 to become the Methodist Church, our church then became Second Methodist Church. In 1969, through merger with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, our name became Second United Methodist Church.
In 1952, a growing congregation and the poor condition of the 1907 structure led to the construction of our present church buildings. For two years, church services were conducted in the recreation building (our present gym) using pews out of the torn down 1907 building. These pews were later offered for sale to the church members and to smaller churches as a fundraiser to purchase pews for the new sanctuary. The first service in the present sanctuary was held on Christmas Day, Saturday, December 25, 1954, a celebration that welcomed many new members. These improvements were completed under the leadership of Dr. George J. Creswell, who served this congregation faithfully for 39 years (1920-1959).
A new church entrance in memory of Dr. Creswell was built on the south side of the church in 1973, while the Rev. Robert W. Walker was serving as pastor. That same year, a majestic Reuter pipe organ was installed and used for the first time on Christmas Sunday, 1973.
In 1985, a fire on the south side of the recreation building led to the construction of our present Family Life Center and improvements in the gymnasium. Storage rooms in the basement of the gym were converted into a new kitchen and open dining area that soon became home to the Community Food Ministry. This work was completed during the first year of Dr. Robert Haskins’ pastorate (1985-1996). Much needed renovations in the Children’s Building were made in 1992, including new paint, carpet, light fixtures and furnishings.
Modifications to the chancel area in the sanctuary were made in late 1997. The stage was extended 8 feet with podiums and railings made portable to create a more versatile space. In addition, a new storage area was created, a new sound system was installed and permanent pews were moved into the balcony.
In April 1999, the church purchased two sections of land adjoining the west side of our property. In addition, Cowan Street and an adjacent alley were closed with ownership of this area transferred to the church. These acquisitions led to a dream to increase and improve accessibility, safety, security and parking at the church. The site improvement project, underway in early 2000, included 3 new handicapped accessible parking lots with all new lighting, sidewalks, ramps and steps. New entrances were created into the fellowship hall and into the FLC. A drive-through covered drop-off area over Cowan Street was constructed. The facility was completely re-landscaped, all utilities were placed underground, and new lighted signs were installed on Western Avenue and facing 1-40.
The little sanctuary, enclosed in 1997, was transformed into a beautiful prayer chapel by the Flossie Cox Circle. New carpet, doors, furniture, a piano and a lighted stained glass window were added to complete the room.
In late 2000, a much needed elevator was installed to provide easier access between the ground level and the sanctuary level of the main building.
On April 26, 2004, a new church library opened its doors to the congregation, offering spiritual and recreational resources to all age groups. Over 1650 books, videos, DVDs and CDs are available for check-out thanks to the efforts of the volunteer library staff, and “Specs,” the library’s bookworm mascot.