The Murrieta Methodist Episcopal Church filed articles of incorporation in San Diego County on June 29, 1886. Daniel Buchanan built the church with assistance from A. Doolittle. The church cost $2,000 to build and was dedicated on September 11, 1887. The first minister was Rev. Amos M. Ogborn assigned to Murrieta and Winchester. In 1942, an addition was added to the west wall of the sanctuary. It included a social hall, kitchen and two classrooms. It was named Sharer Hall for Rev. C. W. Sharer who made the plans and did most of the construction. On April 10, 1963, an arsonist burnt the church to the ground. The following Sunday was Easter Sunday. The Easter Sunrise Service was held at the Sykes Ranch on Hayes Ave. On March 28, 1965, the congregation dedicated a new church building on the corner of Kalmia and Adams Avenue. The Methodist congregation is the oldest congregation in Murrieta today.
The parsonage was built in 1909. It was the place of residence for the Methodist minister and his family. At the Annual Conference, Methodist ministers would be reassigned to a different church. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, believed that each minister had unique talents to offer the congregation. Each year, a different Methodist minister would be assigned to the Murrieta/Wildomar circuit, bringing his unique talents and experiences. Many Methodist ministers and their families resided at the parsonage over the years. Sometimes, couples would have a small wedding at the parsonage.
On April 10, 1963, an arsonist burnt the church to the ground. The Murrieta Volunteer Fire Department was unable to save the church, but they were able to save the parsonage. In 1974, a new parsonage was built on First Avenue between Juniper and C
Street. The old parsonage was sold. Today the Murrieta Valley Funeral Home occupies the former residence.
Remembering the Murrieta Methodist Church Arson Fire By Jeffery G. Harmon
On April 10, 1963, as the town residents slept, the electric siren suddenly rang out at the Murrieta Volunteer Fire Station. Eleven year old, Pat Jennings jumped out of bed to see what was happening. His father, Bill Jennings, who was a volunteer firefighter,
had gotten dressed and raced out the front door. He did not have to travel far to locate the fire. Adjacent from the Jennings residence, the Murrieta Methodist Church at the corner of A Street and Washington Avenue was engulfed in flames.
The Murrieta Volunteer Firefighters had formed in 1947. During its first year, the Murrieta Methodist Church bell would call them to action. In 1948, Murrieta’s first fire station was built behind the Murrieta Machine Shop on C Street. A new civil defense
electric siren was installed.
If there was an emergency in town, residents could call the Fire Chief, Raymond Thompson, or they could call the Murrieta Machine Shop. Outside the bay doors there was a switch that could be thrown to sound the alarm.
When the siren rang out, all the town dogs would howl in protest. Inside the station, a chalkboard was used to announce where the fire was located. If a volunteer arrived after the truck had left the station, he could look at the board and join the crew.
The Murrieta children would jump on their bicycles and race to the station to see where the action was.
As Bill Jennings approached the church fire, he probably saw Pastor Tom Warmer, who lived in the parsonage next to the church, standing outside his residence with a few personal belongings. As the town gathered, the volunteer firefighters knew
there was nothing they could do to save the seventy-six year old structure. The older children raced into the parsonage and began pulling furniture out in case it too would succumb to the flames.
The firefighters decided to try and save the pastor’s residence. They soaked the walls facing the church with water. The heat shattered the windows, but in the end, their efforts saved the fifty-four year old residence.
According to family lore, John Dunham had approached the front of the church, when suddenly the church bell came crashing down. Bill Jennings quickly grabbed John and pulled him to safety. In the end, everyone stood back and watched as the old Methodist church’s roof came crashing down with a violent roar.
As the sun rose over the Murrieta Valley, the church was a heap of smoldering rubble. The air was thick with the smell of smoke, as firefighters finally put out the remaining embers. In the weeks ahead, Murrieta children explored the vacant church lot and gathered long rusty square nails.
The Methodist Church was rebuilt at the corner of Kalmia Street and Adams Avenue. The bell, melted and gnarled, was recovered and rests on a monument in the new church courtyard. Today, the parsonage is the home of the Murrieta Valley Funeral Home. The original church footprint is underneath the funeral home’s parking lot. Pat Jennings followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Murrieta Fire Department. Deputy Fire Chief Pat retired on November 5, 2015 after 28 years of serving the Murrieta community.