Fairhaven United Methodist Church was organized in August 1881 after Fairhaven resident, Robert Parry, was converted at an evangelical service at the Arlington Camp Meeting Ground. In 1883 the congregation was recognized by the Methodist Protestant Church as a mission outpost of the Methodist Church and it was assigned its first pastor, Reverend Samuel Ferry Crowthers.
The congregation initially met in a building owned by the Baldwin Township School District. The school was located at the present intersection of Maytide and Saw Mill Run. In 1890 the Baldwin Township Council voted not to allow religious organizations to rent government buildings. In response to the Baldwin School Board’s action, Robert Thompson donated land on Glenbury Street for the construction of a new church. Parishioners donated their labor and Watson Provost donated the construction materials. The new church building opened in 1890. In 1907 it was decided that a new church needed to be built due to the congregation’s increased membership. Land on Saw Mill Run Boulevard was donated by Cordelia Long Horning.
The present church building was consecrated on December 8, 1907. The building’s new location was on a major street and it allowed Fairhaven Church to be at the geographic heart of the community. Fairhaven United Methodist Church is the oldest surviving congregation from the original community of Fairhaven.
In 1979 the Western Pennsylvania Methodist Conference suggested establishing a yoked ministry with the Mount Washington United Methodist Church due to its declining membership. This partnership continued until 1994 when the Methodist Conference decided to merge the Mount Washington United Methodist Church into Fairhaven Church.
In 1999 the Board of Trustees voted to build an addition to the church which had been planned for many years. The addition, named Burton Hall, was dedicated on September 17, 2000.
In 2005, the Methodist Conference suggested a partnership of five churches that would share three ministers and their expenses. This was approved by the membership of all five churches. In 2012 a sixth church joined this partnership.
Today the congregation continues in its historic goals of bringing God’s word to the community through outreach and mission work. Efforts to support these goals are ongoing. The church serves as a community meeting place for the Overbrook Neighborhood Safety Meetings, a local postcard club, three times a week AA meetings, daily NA meetings, twice a week Spanish language worship services, and other organizations.
As mission work is the foundation of Methodist philosophy, it follows that church volunteerism is equally valued. When a partnership pastor is not available for a Sunday service, the congregation has a body of church members who are credentialed as lay speakers and who serve in the stead of the pastor. Fairhaven’s volunteer Choir Director has served for over thirty years and the church’s volunteer Organist is entering her 54th year of service. The church has no paid staff outside of the pastor.
Over the last 131 years, Fairhaven’s membership has reflected the surrounding community. Church membership started in 1881 with ten. Membership increased to over four hundred in 1966. In 2011 membership was 157. However, in 2012, the church’s membership increased to 164. Additionally, the church has over a dozen fourth and fifth generation members.
By Rich Cummings
Fairhaven Historian and Member