The village of Sarasota's earliest church was chartered in 1891 as the Sarasota Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Manatee Village circuit rider Rev. E. F. Gates brought recently ordained Rev. William B. Tresca to be founding minister. 'Will' had studied at Methodist Emory College near Atlanta. They arrived on horseback from the Manatee Methodist Church, oldest religious organization (1849) on mainland Florida south of Fort Brooke (now called Tampa).
Charter members were Mr. and Mrs. John Helveston, Lula Helveston, Mr. and Mrs. W.R. Gocio, Martha Drew, Helen Pinard, Levi Jonathan Knight, P.K. Johnson and possibly Mrs. Isadore Spencer. Peter Crocker and his daughter Fannie. Nancy Whitaker Helveston was the first settler child born along Sarasota Bay (1852). The Gocios were citrus growers. Knight was the son of pioneer cattleman 'Rev.' Jessie Knight, who settled in 1868 at Horse and Chaise (Nokomis-Venice). Mrs. Pinard's husband, Felix, was Sarasota's first professional photographer.
Land was purchased in 1892 at the SE corner of Main and Pineapple. Prominent citizen and future three-term mayor, Harry Higel, provided the purchase price of $40.
The Methodists moved their 'Little White Church at Five Points' to this site in 1911. Next to it they completed a new $10,000
brick 'Greek Temple' in 1914. Classes continued to meet in the original building until 1922, when it was rebuilt in Newtown for Bethel CME Church.
In 1924 the church installed one of the area's first pipe organs. Kathryn Scott was organist. Choir director, Clause Hebb served without pay from 1924-1963, as did violinist Martha Lynne Robertson. Area musical events were frequent.
Through the years, First Methodist has expanded its own programs and helped many other churches develop. Growing membership led to the building of this half million dollar sanctuary, which was first used for services on Christmas Day, 1955. English artist Arthur Erridge designed the 17 memorial stained glass windows. A million dollar chapel-office complex with choir room replaced the old brick church in 1983. In the same year, Franz Engle, who as to be organist-choirmaster for 23 years, dedicated the four-manual, more than 3,000-pipe, 53 rank Moller organ. During the Centennial year, 1990-1991, the church was rededicated to its next century of service.