In 1984, two churches with long histories in central Oakland, Oakland First Methodist Church and St. Stephens United Methodist Church Methodist, merged and created Lake Merritt United Methodist Church (LMUMC).
Oakland First Methodist Church was founded by the Rev. C.E. Rich in 1862, just 10 years after Oakland was incorporated. Established in a small building at 6th and Washington Streets, the church subsequently moved to 9th and Washington Streets, 14th and Clay Streets, and, finally, Broadway and 24th Street.
During this time, Eighth Avenue United Methodist Church, a smaller congregation, was merged into First Methodist Church. In 1913, Rev. A.J. Hanson and 15 charter members founded St. Stephens United Methodist Church on behalf of the City Church Extension Society. For the first several months, meetings were held in a tent. The main property at Park Boulevard and Thirteen Avenue, just east of the downtown Lake Merritt district, was purchased in 1914 and a permanent edifice erected in 1923.
In 1981, First Methodist Church caught fire and burned to the ground. While discussions on how to recover from this tragedy were held, First Methodist's congregation was invited to worship at St. Stephens. Soon, merger talks began between the two congregations. The decision to merge was made in 1984. Determined to remain in central Oakland and to plan a ministry that would serve the people of the city, the merged congregation purchased a site overlooking Lake Merritt and adopted a new name, Lake Merritt United Methodist Church.
The new church was designed by Terry Wade, an Oakland architect and LMUMC member. No construction money was borrowed, the project was financed by a combination of existing assets and funds raised by the congregation. The completed building was christened on February 3, 1991. The church has two official entrances. The entrance at 1255 First Avenue is at the foot of International Boulevard (E. 14th St.). It includes a parking lot, is wheelchair accessible and looks toward the multi-cultural Eastlake neighborhood just beyond. On the other side of the building the entrance at 1330 Lakeshore Avenue features a grand staircase. Inside, the sanctuary's floor-to-ceiling windows frame a beautiful view of the lake and downtown Oakland. A rare three-panel mosaic of Tiffany glass, depicting Jesus Christ, Moses, and John the Baptist in an array of shimmering colors, forms a gracious backdrop to worship activities.
Since its inception in 1991, three pastors have served LMUMC. They are the Rev. Donald L. Kuhn, the Rev. Renae Extrum-Fernandez, and, currently, the Rev. Mary Elyn Bahlert. Each has brought special gifts to the on-going ministry of one of Oakland's most active downtown churches.