Market Street Church has a most interesting history. Methodism came to Winchester in the summer of 1772 when William Watters and Richard Wright, preachers of the great Methodist movement in America, preached here. However, there was no formal church organization for several years. After James Walls, a local carpenter was converted under Francis Asbury’s preaching in Stephens City, he returned to Winchester and started a class of eleven members in 1789. Richard Swift was appointed as the first pastor of the Winchester Circuit in 1790.
The present building is the third house of worship from these early beginnings. Work began on this building in the spring of 1853 and the cornerstone was laid on September 21st of that year. The building was formally dedicated on May 20, 1855.
During the years of the Civil War the congregation held together. By 1875 differences were more heated and 3/4ths of the congregation left and joined the new church on Braddock Street. The latter was established in 1858 as a result of a dispute over the seating of students from the Valley Female Institute.
The church existence was threatened in two instances and ended up in court, once when a suit was brought by another church regarding ownership of the building in 1868 and another, when a claim was filed against the Trustees of the Church for $6,800. A church member paid that sum to buy, and thus sustain, the life of the church. When the church survived the first threat, one of the members nicknamed the church “the Old Ship,” a name that has stuck with the church ever since. The name of the current church newsletter is “The Old Ship.”
Market Street UMC is proud of its pipe organ and wonderful sound in the sanctuary, but these also have had a rocky road. The first pipe organ was dedicated in 1910; Andrew Carnegie contributed to the church organ fund. The organ was renovated in 1979 but vandalized in May 1981 and further, severely damaged in the fire of 1981. The sanctuary and the organ were restored by 1982. Fortunately, an education building was added to the sanctuary building in 1961 and served as the site of worship and meetings during the renovation.
The Market Street “ship” continues to sail on, adding new ministries such as the Kitchen of Hope and a Child Care Center in the late nineties and early twenty-first century. The church has remained faithful to its calling to offer Jesus Christ in the marketplace of Winchester. We envision a church that will nurture persons of all ages in their spiritual growth, reaching out with compassion to identify and address the needs of others, and boldly sharing our faith and inviting all to become a part of our church family.