A revival burned brightly in Des Moines, Iowa in the late 1920s. A group of believers began to meet in the skating rink at 507 East Grand. In 1928, John Richey came from Los Angeles to pastor the group, and they soon purchased the old Grace United Methodist Church at 19th and Crocker.
The Richey’s pastored the church until 1939 when Frank W. Smith became the church’s second pastor. In 1967, the congregation moved to its present location on the corner of Beaver and Hickman. The first phase – consisting of the sanctuary, narthex, classrooms, fellowship hall, and offices – was built at that time.
In 1976, Pastor Smith retired after 37 years of ministry and the church’s third pastor, C. Daniel LeLaCheur, was installed. Under his capable leadership, two building programs were completed. The first, in 1978, consisted of classrooms, kitchen and gymnasium, stage and parking area. In 1984, the second program – consisting of additional classrooms, offices, lobby, television studio and choir rehearsal room – was completed.
The fourth pastor, Ken Groen, came to First Church in June 1987. Under Rev. Groen’s pastorate, the Frank W. Smith Retirement Center was built as a cooperation between First Church and HUD. The retirement center, after 40 years, becomes the sole property of First Church. In addition, two churches were planted under Pastor Groen’s guidance, Heartland Open Bible Church (now Lifehouse Community Church) and Lifesong Church of the Open Bible. The Living Christmas Tree outreach and the Trio of Lights also began during Pastor Groen’s tenure.
In October of 1997, Danny Thomas became the fifth pastor at First Church. Under Pastor Thomas’s leadership, the office area was renovated and decorated, and a successful outreach production of In His Steps attracted more than 500 people to First Church.
Pastor Curtis L. Arne came to First Church in May of 2000. Pastor Arne was instrumental in the implementation of The Dream Center and the planting of Iglesia Biblia Abierta (the Hispanic Church plant at First Church). The Coffee Café became a reality under Pastor Arne’s leadership.
On Easter Sunday 2013, Pastor Spencer D. Keroff came as the seventh pastor of First Church.
During the past 85 years, First Church has had the privilege of seeing scores of people becoming Christians, being baptized in water, and being immersed in the Holy Spirit. In addition, many lives have been delivered of sinful habits and lifestyles, and have become eternally transformed.
As we build upon the past, and as we look to the future, we anticipate a continued outpouring of God’s Spirit upon His Church.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24 & 25).