If the words most closely associated with the First United Methodist Church of Seffner are “family” and “tradition” then Daniel Allen could be its poster child.
As the church prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary on May 19, Allen, the church’s 34-year-old youth director, can trace his roots in the sanctuary back 90 years.
“The church has been the foundation of everything I’ve become today,” said Daniel Allen, who started as a member of the church’s youth ministry. “It’s been the rock for everything I’ve done.”
A distant uncle of Allen’s mother was a minister at the church in 1923.
His grandmother was raised in Seffner and attended the church along with the rest of her family.
After his grandfather retired from the Air Force, he relocated to Seffner with Allen’s mother in 1966.
Allen’s mother Joyce Allen is co-chair of the First United Methodist Church of Seffner heritage committee, which is helping coordinate the anniversary celebration.
“The thing that makes this church special is the family connection, and the support we all give each other,” Joyce Allen said.
“There’s a lot of tradition in this church,” added Sandy Naugle, co-chair of the church’s heritage committee. Joyce Allen and Naugle give one another credit for helping raise each other’s children.
The church opened its doors in 1888, but the three lots where it is located were purchased in July 1889. A combination Sunday School building and recreation hall was added in 1934. Henderson Hall was named in honor of Ida Henderson, the first president of the Seffner Women’s Society.
That same year, the church was renamed Spencer Memorial Methodist Church, in honor of Col. Charles Spencer. Spencer endowed the church some property on what is now Martin Luther King Boulevard. A garage and filling station were built and the property was then rented to help offset church expenses.
The current sanctuary was built in 1959 — and remodeled in the 1980s to include additional classrooms and a chapel — while the existing Sunday School classrooms were built in 1961. Henderson Hall was razed in 1975 to make way for a new social hall. Meanwhile, the church underwent a name change in 1966 — when it became the First Methodist Church of Seffner — before settling on its current moniker in 1969.
Throughout the years, the church has partnered with other churches in the area and provided a variety of community services. Congregation members have volunteered at the I Am Hope Café in Seffner to help feed the needy and the church has sponsored a growing number of Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.
Daniel Allen, who shares leadership of the youth ministry with his wife Dawn, said membership among the group and scout troops has doubled since they took over about a year ago.
“The scouting programs and the church are starting to mesh and really thrive,” he said. “We’re making it so that this is the place where you bring your kids.”
The church averages about 80 to 100 people at its 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service, which is preceded by 9:45 a.m. Sunday school.
“I’ve seen churches that get 10 to 15 people, and I’ve also been at churches that get more than 2,000 people,” Daniel said. “Never have I seen the love that I see at Seffner.”