Forming in the late 1970s, Atascadero United Methodist Church found its first home in the Chapel of the Roses mortuary’s chapel. With worship and a Sunday School program, and led by the Rev. Rollin Dexter, the church was off to a good start. Churches of the Santa Barbara District helped augment the limited income of the fledgling congregation. Members of other United Methodist congregations were encouraged to become a part of this new adventure. On Aug. 12, 1979, the first service of worship saw 22 new members courageously place their memberships in the United Methodist Church of Atascadero.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 25, 1980, just less than one year since the project begun, the membership had grown to 85 charter members. The Rev. Fr. Harry Freiermuth, the priest at St. William’s Catholic church, was a most gracious host to the 200 or more worshippers who gave formal approval as they attended the formal organization of the congregation, which took place in the sanctuary of the Catholic church.
Groundbreaking for the first unit of the new church took place on Sunday, May 30, 1982, with Bishop Jack Tuell presiding. After many volunteer hours, days, weeks and months of work, an excited congregation began its regular worship at the Chapel of the Roses on Palm Sunday 1983. That very morning, after gathering up all of the church belongings, they began their journey from the Chapel to the new multipurpose building on South El Camino Real. The chief of police and two police units escorted the procession.
Pastor “Dex” retired at the Annual Conference of 1986, and was followed in the Atascadero appointment by Dr. James Beebe, 1986-1990; the Rev. Edward Martin, 1990-1994; the Rev. Myron Wingfield, 1994-2001; the Rev.Cherie Jones, 2001-2009; the Rev. Robb Fuesler 2009-2013, the Rev. Diane Rehfield 2013-2019, and by our current pastor, the Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall, who came in 2019. In 1998, the Rev. Rollin Dexter became Pastor Emeritus to the congregation he founded.
As the church family has grown, the buildings have expanded twice to accommodate activities. A church school wing with six classrooms was added in the late ’80s and in spring 2000 the congregation took part in the groundbreaking for the present sanctuary. This was first used on Dec. 17, 2000, and dedicated in spring 2001. It is used frequently as a venue for area concerts and similar gatherings.
Currently, Atascadero United Methodist Church has a full-time senior minister, a full-time administrative assistant, full-time director of communications & video production, a director of music, a MIX coordinator and several other paid staff. The volunteer ethic of the congregation is as strong as ever, and the church has a well-known and highly regarded presence in the social services and social justice work of the local community.
And, as it always has, the church welcomes all who enter its doors. It is a dynamic fellowship of widely diverse persons united in serving God in one another and in the community and world.