Heritage Conservation Society

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Central United Methodist Church (Ermita, Manila)

Posted by admin on January 2, 2007

694 T.M. Kalaw Street, Ermita, Manila

The first Protestant church in the Philippines, the first chapel was completed on December 23, 1901. It was replaced by a stone structure in November 1906 and was elevated to a cathedral in 1932. The church was destroyed during the Second World War and was rebuilt following the original plans in 1949.


54 Responses to “Central United Methodist Church (Ermita, Manila)”

  1. jollibee said

    historical church

  2. Dario A. Borje said

    Please include my article below, I may send you other historical infos about our church. Thanks.

    Brief History of Central United Methodist Church
    (Divergence to Unification, celebrating 108th anniversary)

    March 2007

    By Dario A. Borje,
    CUMC Church Historian (2002 to present)/CUMC Finance Chairman (2004-present)

    Central United Methodist Church was founded on Sunday of March 5, 1899, as the first Protestant church in the Philippines to minister the spiritual needs of thousands of American soldiers and civilians alike who were then residing in Manila. It was also referred to as “The American Church” or the first ever “ English-Speaking Church” in the Philippines located along Nozaleda Street , now called General Luna Street where the Department of Tourism building stands.

    In October 1900, the Official Board of Central Church bought a lot for the church at the corner of San Luis Street, now T.M Kalaw Street, and Gen. Luna Street. This purchase, costing $3,250, was the first land bought in the Philippines for Protestant ministry. Practically, the entire amount was raised in Manila in a short period and a temporary chapel seating 150 was erected. It was dedicated free of debt on Sunday, December 23, 1901. By 1903, Central Church had 300 members.

    The phenomenal growth of Central Church in the 1920s called for a bigger and modern place of worship. By February 1932, the construction of the magnificent temple designed by Architect Juan M. Arellano has been completed. Inauguration took place on June 19, 1932 which coincided with Dr. Jose Rizal’s birth anniversary.

    After World War II, Central Church was a heap of ruins, pockmarked with bullet holes, its roofing had completely collapsed. On February 21, 1949, a substantial amount of money was raised for the reconstruction of the church in cooperation with the Council of Bishops in the United States, Secretary of Board of Foreign Missions, Bishop of Manila Central District and the combined efforts of church members. The rebuilding of the church took almost five months to accomplish.

    The new sanctuary was enlarged, very conducive to worship the Lord, with an added wing at the left, where the Perez Chapel and the Student Center Stand. At the altar is Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Greek letters Alpha and Omega carved by Graciano Nepomuceno, an outstanding Filipino Sculptor. Seven Central Church symbols were also added to the panels and pulpits.

    The reconstructed “Cathedral”, standing anew in stately grandeur and beauty after its reconstruction, was opened to the public with a Christmas concert in the evening of Christmas Day, 1949. Re-dedication was made the following year on February 10, 1950.

    Over the years of ministry, Central Church went through tragic events; differences took place among members causing breakaways, splits and separation from the church.

    The first major breakaway was felt in the early 1900s, the make-up of the congregation changed gradually, as in time it lost the bulk of its American members who left and joined with the First Presbyterian Church to form a new church dedicated for American expatriates. From this merger, came the establishment of The Union Church of Manila. A church founded under the inspiration of Methodist Bishop, James Thoburn, who delivered the first official sermon by a Protestant, Dr. Homer Stuntz, Central Church Pastor of 1901, Methodist missionaries, Dr. Arthur Prautch (one of the first pastors of Central Church in 1899) and his wife and Dr. James B. Rodgers, a Presbyterian minister who arrived in Manila in 1899. It was then located at Padre Faura but later on, transferred to Makati Central Business District.

    The move was misinterpreted by some Filipino members as a form of “racial discrimination.” But on the contrary, a reasonable number of American Methodists decided to stay and continued its mission at Central Church. The Union Church of Manila was actually a union signed and sealed by three Protestant denominations: Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist; in which the Presbyterians donated the building while the Methodists matched it with a donation of cash and a hand-pump organ.

    In the 1930s, moral issues came into view involving a member of the clergy. A large group of Central Church members disagree with the decision favouring the accused in an Annual Conference held at a Methodist church in Pangasinan. Dismayed with the outcome, they chose to leave Central Church permanently and organized themselves as an Independent Methodist Church and later on became Cosmopolitan Church under the jurisdiction of another Protestant denomination, Union Church of Christ in the Philippines, which we see today along Taft Avenue.

    The 1940s were acceptably the most terrifying episode not only for the members but for the whole Filipino nation. Central Church faced a world at war. The Japanese armed forces entered the City of Manila and every worship service of Central Church was covered with a special or secret agent of the Japanese Imperial army. Majority of the congregation vanished rapidly while a few, made up of Filipinos and Americans, heroically stayed. But unfortunately, some of them were executed by the Japanese beneath the church’s tunnel, a hideout used by Filipinos and Americans from the Japanese Imperial Army, now can be seen today as a small door underneath the pastor’s pulpit leading to its historical tunnel.

    The whole church was vacated in January 1945 and no more worship services were held because of military purposes by the Japanese. Weeks of intensified fighting against the American forces of General McArthur had made Manila, the most damaged cities of World War II alongside Leningrad and Warsaw, and in this event, church building was entirely destroyed from Allied bombings which members though was the end of Methodist’s most magnificent temple.

    After the war, the re-construction of Central Church in 1949 was probably the most “envied” architecture in the history of Philippine Methodism. The outside beauty reflects the inside wherein the congregation, supplemented with well respected people with prominent names in the field of society, well-dressed in their ultimate style during Sundays to present their best appearance in front of the altar. However, this manifestation has given negative impression to some members including a few transients who misunderstood and intimidated with the code of behaviour of the majority members. Those affected decided to leave and find a church where they can freely feel the company and peace in mind. Once again, Central Church was misjudged, widespread telltales came out exaggeratedly like wild fire to all Methodist churches across the nation that Central Church is for wealthy members only and was christened as an ”Elite Church.”

    In fairness, this was clarified by many that Central Church was indeed, an “Elite Church,” because of the congregation, which Methodists should be proud of, made up by leaders with great influence in Protestantism and the national life of the Philippines which can be read today down to our history books. Central Church members did not discriminate less fortunate worshipers, it was actually a false impression took personally by a few narrow-minded, gossip bringer members who felt being dominated and envied the well-appearances of the members which led them to lose focus in worshiping the Lord and put them adrift from the church’s activities, showing what an unbecoming Methodist should be.

    The last major split was in the early 1990s, almost half of the congregation of Centralites, mostly foremost members, was starting to shape up to oppose the violation of some rules of Methodist’s book of discipline by the current administration of Central Church and the district it represents. Later, establishes themselves as Methodists Reformed Movement (MRM) of Central Church. The violation had been going on undetected, but upon discovery, varied reactions from opposite sides got underway then later on led to personal conflicts. This was raised immediately to proper channels to solve the matter.
    However, the judgement favoured the incumbent. Dissatisfied with the outcome, MRM members walked out and temporarily housed themselves in a nearby Cheers fellowship hall, along General Luna Street. Unlike the previous breakaways, MRM decided to come back to Central Church in 1992 to continue the healing process among members and likewise, continue the reforms within its territory. This movement has stimulated other Methodist churches nationwide and formed their own reformed movement as well.

    Today, Central Church has continued to stand as Methodist’s most beautiful temple. It has managed to move forward by leaving the past behind. From near downfall, it has regained by the power of God as the centre of Methodism in the Philippines, stretching its services from English, Ilocano, Tagalog, Chinese, Tagalog Vesper, English Vesper and Midweek. It has continued to be the scene of many concerts, spiritual retreats, weddings, baptisms, conference sessions and thanksgiving services. Ministries are progressive within the church and in the community as well. Fellowships among dedicated members were also formed into different categories made up of youth, adults and senior citizens. Choirs and musicians maintained great quality music which we Methodists are well-known for.

    Lessons learned in the past have made Central Church a true worthy symbol of Unity, Sharing and Understanding. Spirit-filled members are now united with a common goal, will continue to grow and strengthen God’s Kingdom on earth.

  3. Dario A. Borje said

    To name a few active CUMC Church regular worshipers and servants of the Lord and contirbuted to the national life & Soceity of the Philippines (deceased & alive or past and present):

    Dr. Jorge Bocobo -UP President and Supreme Court Justice

    Cirilo B Perez – Librarian Bureau of Science and outstanding WWII guerrilla leader

    Dr. Asuncion Perez (wife of Cirilo) -Guerilla leader and Administrator of Social Welfare and President of Phil Wesleyan College

    Congresswoman Medina Lacson de Leon – Sec. of Commerce and and Bataan Rep

    Dr. Cicero Calderon – Head of Labor and Education Center and Pres. of Siliman University

    David C. Borje – Outstanding WWII hero and political writer (Evening News, Daily Express, Daily Globe) and political adviser/analyst. 2 time president of Manila Press Club

    Arch Serafin Aquino – landscape arch and former Head of TAgaytay 2000

    Celedonia Aquino (wife of Serafin) – Principal International School of Manila and Political adviser to Jovito Salonga

    General Samuel Bagasin – Chief of Southern Command and AFP deputy chief of staff

    Just. Ruben T. Reyes – Chief Justice of Court of Appeals

    Pres. Fidel V. RAmos – President of the Republic of the Philippines

    First Lady Amelita Martinez Ramos- First lady of Fidel

    Jocobo Clave -Ambassador to the US and Sec of Foreign Affairs

    Go Kim Pha – Founder and owner of Equitable Bank Corporation

    Go Puan Seng – founder and owner of Fookien Times and The Philippine Star

    Sen. Camillo Osias – Philippine Senator

    Jess Monteclaro – political writer and analyst

    Sy Lian Teng – owner of hotels and steel magnate

    Maximo Gimenez – owner and founder of Max’s Restuarant

    Jose Abad Santos – Supreme Court Justice and WWII hero

    Felix Isagun Manalo – Founder of Iglesia n Cristo (a Methodist from 1903-06)

    and many more…………..

  4. Jhing said

    Thanks for this very informative site. Hope you can also add an organizational chart or structure of UMC. God bless

  5. Dario A. Borje said

    Hi Jhing, you are welcome anytime to drop by our church office at TM Kalaw and get the information you want. God bless.

  6. Do you have an archive or some key depositories of documents, etc. about the first protestant church in the Philippines?

    Is this part of the NCCP or UCCP?

    I need more information about history of Christianity in the Philippines.

    I am from Dumaguete City and Dr. Cicero Calderon was the president of Silliman University at that time, I was a high school student then. I used to attend the University church with my friend.

    I want to visit your archive too.

    Thank you very much.

    • eufems said

      The first Protestant public service in the Philippines was officiated by a minister of the now-United Methodist Church. The UMC, I think, have established the first local Protestant church here. Central UMC is a part of the United Methodist Church whose Philippine branch is a member of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) together with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). 🙂

  7. Is this the same as the Iemelif Reform Movement?

  8. I wish they can print some activities and program or happening at Central United Methodist Church

  9. Renette said

    No, this is not the same as IEMELIF Reform Movement. For more info on IRM, you may visit http://bishopreydomingo.wordpress.com. Thanks!

  10. Dear Mr.Borje:
    Greetings and Felicitation in the Name Of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
    I would be looking forward to have the oppotunity in finally meeting you morever to consult with you in how I could be able to effectively create CUMC’s vision into the digital world. Needless to say, but I am humbled and honored as well to share my talents in building your virtual domain in the internet,as Iam officially commissioned by your Church to develop the CUMC website.

    Best Regards

    Arni Estacio
    manila episcopal area
    web ministry

  11. Red C. said

    I love this church. I was baptized here in 1976 and attended service through the 1980’s until my mom moved to the US.

  12. DB said

    Hi everybody, for such a long time never visited this site and to begin with, I may start with elizabeth Pulanco. CUMC belongs to the United Methodist Church not UCCP but a member of NCCP. We are not Iemelif,they were former members of the St Paul United Methodist who broke away to seek independence from the Americans led by Nicolas Zamora.

    You will see 2 memorials in front of the church, one in tagalog and the other translated to English stating as the first Protestant Church in the Phils. The location itself in Tm kalaw proves to be an evidence when Americans won the Battle of Manila Bay. American soldiers and civilians were seeking for a nearby Protestant church while cleaning up the mess left by the Spanish. As you see, Central UMC is at the middle of Taft AVe. Otis, Dewey Blvd, UN Ave, Luneta, Mla CityHall, PCU, PNU, US Embassy, WHO, Senate and Congress, Tourism, PhilAmLife, etc.. These are American Structures. In these evidence alone, no other Protestant Church can claim they are the first, you may also check that at the Methodist Archives in Drew University New Jersey, USA.

    Thanks and I’m glad that wee see you someday at Central United Methodist Cathedral

  13. DB said

    Hi Manny Terado, its such a long time you haven’t visited the Phils. CUMC will re-launch the new Website, you may see the new set of officers for the CY 2008-09 and you will as well the church activities. Its already in the internet but subject to improvement.


    Phil Central Conf will be held here at our church on Nov. 18 to 23 an event to elect new Bishops of UMC..A construction of a new 10 story building is being planned beside the main church and the ground breaking will start next year during the 110th anniversary celebration.

    Hope you can come home soon

  14. DB said

    Hi Arni, as the Chairman of the Church Council of CUMC, you are much welcome and a gift from God. We are very honored to be working with you in the development of our website.

    Keep in touch

  15. DB said

    Hi Red C, I hope we can still remember you as a younger member of the UMYF. The young people now in this church has big numbers in terms of population including my 2 kids. Young people now are very active. We have services for the young people called the Upper Box held every Friday night at the Student Center/Heroes Hall of CUMC. I attend church services at the First United Methodist Church in National City San Diego during our vacation at Chula Vista.

    Hope you can come

  16. DB said

    BTW, Elizabeth P, forgot to say, Dr, Cicero Calderon used to attend services at Central Church. Try to read also the at the Internet The Story of Philippine Methodism by Richard Deats. Central Student Church was also the name of CUMC during the early periods.

  17. maritess said

    Good morning to all,I`m Maritess Basha.I love listine God words.
    I am catholic but still i am not complate.I want to be a children of the lord.
    Can you please help me?I hope you understand me


  18. Gabriel said

    I want to greet the Aldersgate Renewal Conference! Its a ” heart harming experience”

  19. Gabriel said

    To Maritess Basha.. Its so nice to hear that.. Why indeed you truly need the Lord,.

    Our Lord Jesus said that come to me all you heavily burden and I will give you rest… If you want to be His daughter all you need to do is to seek His face listen to His words, then acknowledge that you are a sinner and turn away from your sins as the Bible said that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from of our sins and unrighteousness… believe that He died for your sins and He was raised from the dead…then you will see everything will change as you put your trust in Christ.. you don’t need to work for your salvation, why? because Jesus already finished it. All we need to do is to accept and to “believe” that He gave his life for us, that truly He is the Son of God our Messiah! If you want to know about Jesus read the Bible and you can ask me, just email me in tsi_peng@yahoo.com.

    I hope that may the LORD bless you keep you and give you peace and the answer to your deep longing to know Him.

  20. DB said

    Hi Marites, the doors of Central Church is open for you. you may attend any of our church services, 4 services in the morning (Tagalog, Ilocano, English & Chinese) and one in the evening called Vesper. We have Sunday schools at 9am. We have Bible Study Cell Groups during week days at QC, Manila and Paranaque. For more details, pls call 525-7329 and look for Ate Baby or Ptr Vic…

  21. s jacob said

    Jacobo “Jake” Clave was never an ambassador and secretary of foregn affairs. He was the executive secretary of President Marcos. He was also a former newspaperman.

    You failed to mention Jose Luna Castro, long time editor in chief of the then Manila Times, the most read daily in the Philippines.

    Jess Monteclaro is not Jess. His name was Eddie Monteclaro, also a newsman and writer on the Manila Bulletin.


    I am very disappointed with Pastor Allan Balang tonight at the Vesper Service. I spoke out my mind but he took potshots at me — in his sermon saying ” a woman, unwanted as a guest inside the church… broke a bottle of perfume on the head of Jesus.” Then later, probably realizing his fault, changed his tone, but the harm has been done.

    I just spoke about how I had a negative experience in the church a few months back but I returned to worship to experience collective worship again during the testimony section.

    if Pastor Balang is not open to testimonies, why doesn’t the church just close that section of the worship?

    I really felt down that a pastor like him should be saying such nasty things. This is the second time that I have had a bad experience with him and about which I wrote Pastor Melad about.

    Maybe I am opening up a can of worms?


  23. Dario Borje said

    Thanks Mr Jacob for the information ( are you Stanly), I would really need more info about the church being the youngest historian as I inherited to my late Father, Dave Borje. There are a few elders who are left in Central which I would really want to ask, so far,there are a few left in their memories and I want to develop the rich history of CUMC. Now i have contacts already with the families of Ptr Don Holter (1934-40) and Ptr Francis Brush (1941),who sent me old pictures, articles and stories before, during and after the war.

    You are pretty much welcome to revisit our church and meet you. You name is still being mentioned to me by some of your colleagues: Atty Oscar Ferrer, Mr Jose Perez, Dan Cabundoc, etc…

    Being the incumbent and re-elected Council Chair & Historian of CUMC, I will create a History Committee in the next Council Meeting to give more importance to the rich history and culture of CUMC. The story above has been revised already for publication for the soon to be realeased souvenir program, commemorating 110th Anniversary.

    And with this, I hope you would help us to contirubute your valuable information about our church and you are very much welcome anytime to meet you again in our church.

    My email ad is daborj4@yahoo.com You can email me anytime.

    Thanks & God bless.

  24. Dario Borje said

    Dear Ms Orozco:

    In behalf of the Church Council, we would really like to apologize on what you have experience. I would discuss the matter with Ptr Melad and Ptr Balang about this. But I believe this has been corrected already on his part. Ptr Balang is a very young pastor, a Youth Pastor of CUMC and has been ordained recently in the PAC last weekend as an elder. With your feedbacks and experience about him, I believe he will be a great pastor someday as he is still in the learning process of becoming a seasoned pastor. I would really like to meet you someday or anytime and be part of our Ministries.

    God bless!!

  25. N Lamb said

    Hello Mr Borje.
    My Grandparents were married in the Church in March of 1903 by a Rev William A Brown. Is that the Reverands correct name? Do you know the time of his tenure? Thanks.

    • D. Borje said

      Hi N. Lamb, this is a great piece of information you provided me. Rev. William A. Brown’s tenure was in 1902 to 1903. He replaced Rev. Homer C. Stuntz in 1902. But in 1903, Rev. Stuntz returned to Central and replaced Rev. Brown. Rev. Brown stayed only for 1 year as admin pastor. His associate pastor then was Rev. Fred A. McCarl who stayed from 1901 to 1902 as Associate to Rev. Stuntz and Rev. Brown. Hope you can share some pictures as part of the history of Central United Methodist Church.

      Thanks and God bless

      • David Brown said

        My name is David Brown. My grandfather and grandmother were the Rev. William Addison Brown and Dora Targert Brown. Rev. Brown was an ordained minister in the Methodist Espicapal Church as was the Rev. Brown referenced. Before he died he was interviewed about his almost 50 year career. He said of all his posting, he considered himself a Pampanganian. In his Will he left instructions that he was to be cremated and his ashes buried in the church he served in the Philippines, Pampanga. His wife Dora Tagert Brown is buried next to him. I don’t know much about his career in the Philippines. I understand he and his wife return there in 1939 to 1940. That’s close to the Japanese invasion, so is there a story? I have pictures of when his was there in 1903. I’d like to learn more.

        Sincerely, David Brown

  26. HI! DEAR CONSERVATION SOCIETY MEMBERS, AND METHODIST CHRISTIANS! It is very pertinent to keep the churches protected. I hope that no more Christian churches will get destroyed, by anything and anyone, especially churches for Peace, spiritually, socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. I am glad that the Central United Methodist Church (Ermita, Manila), got rebuilt. We are also the Church, the Body of Christ, this is why, it bothers me, when any of us war against each other, plus other people warring against us! I wish you all extra special blessings and I am in the United States, and would like for you to reply back, any of you! Sincerely, Afeni!

  27. Thank you for receiving my message, have a God bless you and have a blessed day and life! From Afeni with Love!

    • daborj said

      Dear Afeni,

      In behalf of Central UMC, we are very glad and thank the Lord for the wonderful message you have given us. Hope someday we see you at Central UMC.

      God bless you and your family.

  28. PIO C VIZCARRA said

    in case you’re in need of pianist for the morning service, if not, in case you know of any church in need of pianist/choir director, please feel free to reach me at 09238373820. Thank you very much. Looking forward to be in God’s vineyard serving Him as our Savior and Lord.

    YOurs musically in Christ Jesus,

    Pio C Vizcarra

    • daborj said

      Thanks Pio for the service you offered. However, we have already a musical director and a pianist.But in case another church is in need of your services, will send your number to them.

      God bless.

  29. jholine said

    can i have the contact number there ? thanks

  30. Shechinag del Rosario said

    Good day! i would like to ask kung magkano po ang rent kapag wedding ceremony sa church na iyan?? can i have the contact number?

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    • ema said

      do you know who’s the architect or engineer of this church??

      • daborj said

        It was designed in 1932 by Dean Arch. Juan M. Arellano, a.k.a. Dean of Filipino Architects. Da Vinci’s Last Supper was carved by an outstanding and award winner sculptor, Graciano Nepomuceno.

  33. Arlene said

    Does your church do marriage counseling? My husband is a sex addict and doesn’t go to church at all. We really need help because his addiction is really messing up our relationship. I want him to belong to a church and start listening to the words of God. I’m hoping that spiritual guidance would help him overcome his addiction. Please help us.

    • daborj said

      Hi Arlene, we invite you to join our Couples Fellowship every Friday, 6:pm at the Church “Cubicle”. For details, call 525-7329 or 525-7590 look for Ate Baby..The fellowship is led by Ate Tita Francisco, wife of the Admin Ptr, Rev. Cerrie Franciso. See you there & God bless.

  34. rachel said

    where does the first united methodist church of makati fall into the picture? my grandparents are among those who worked with Rev. Bill Matthews then …. thanks.

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  36. junard gabeson said

    Kindly show some structures of the chuch? I’m an eng. student I like to get some ideas of the structures i’m also a methodist

  37. Adultering Methodist said

    Do Methodists condone adultery? One of your members is openly enticing a married man to have an affair with her. Very much like the serpent in the garden of Eden. She and her daughter are “devout” Parishioners. Why are the pastors not guiding their flock to honor God by keeping the marital vow, a vow made in front of God and man? If your church cannot give due value to the marital rite,then you should just tell all your parishioners to get married before a judge, and not in the church. Your silence in situations when adulterers are allowed to act as couples in your church shows how little you actually live the Word of God in your daily life.

  38. nelia said

    good day! ask lang po kung meron bang English service every sunday and what time?please reply .thanks

  39. Susana said

    Useful info. Fortunate me I found your website accidentally, and I am surprised why this coincidence
    didn’t came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

  40. Maricel Hinkulow said

    Hello Mr. Borje, it would be amiss if you will not include the connection of Knox UMC in your history book of Central UMC since they are sisters. Also I would like to add that Central UMC was and is also connected with Philippine Christian University- Mary Johnston College of Nursing as nursing students’ church when they are out of Tondo, Manila and not attending St. Paul UMC in Tondo. I was one of these herds of nurses nurtured in Christian teachings and hymns at Central UMC in the 80’s, sung in the choir, participated in various ministries.
    Every time that we go back and visit the Philippines, we at least attend a worship service and it brings memories. Next year, we are planning to celebrate our parents’ golden anniversary and one of their wishes is to renew their vows at this magnificent cathedral.
    Please do continue to enrich your files. Hope to see the web page soon. Surely it will be popular and you might include query so Methodists who live locally and abroad can contribute to the rich history of our church and also Methodism in the Philippines.
    God Bless Always.


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    Central United Methodist Church (Ermita, Manila) « Heritage Conservation Society

  42. My father told me that I was baptized here … maybe 1933 or 1934

  43. jelian gontinias said

    Hi, i’m an architecture student and currently doing my thesis. we are studying the building in manila built during american era. my question is that, what is the meaning of the carvings in the facade of the central Methodist church? thanks

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