Methodist Francis Ausbury, one of the first two Methodist Bishops in the United States, visited this area numerous times between 1790 and 1809. At the time, Methodist ministers and pastors from other denominations spent most of their time on horseback travelling from town to town preaching sermons.
Ausbury’s efforts in the Shenandoah Valley bore fruit in the Town of Woodstock. In 1808 several congregants gathered together to build a log Methodist Meeting House on the corner of High and Muhlenberg Streets.
This project and the arrival of a minister, sparked new growth in the congregation. After occupying their church only 20 years, a new structure was needed. In 1830 a brick structure was completed on the same site. Twenty eight years later yet another building was begun here. It would not be completed until after the Civil War. During the conflict the basement, as well as other buildings on the block, was used as a hospital for soldiers from both sides.
The current Methodist Church was dedicated in 1904. An educational wing was added in 1953 and a social hall in 1983. These reflected on the church’s growing desire to be a community as well as spiritual center. Currently a pre-school and child care center is operated in the church as a result of these efforts.
Woodstock’s congregation has been associated with various Methodist denominations since it was founded. Originally the church was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. However, in 1844 it and most other congregations in the south split with their northern brethren over the issue of slavery. Most northern churches insisted that the Gospels opposed the institution, while the southern Methodists insisted it was a divine institution.
This schism led to the creation of the Methodist Episcopal Church-South which supported the secession movement and segregation efforts. A church of both denominations existed in Woodstock. Mt. Zion Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Church Street served a predominantly black population. Woodstock Methodist continued to serve the white population. The two groups would reunite in 1939, but racism would continue in many churches for several decades.
In 1968 Woodstock became part of the United Methodist Church when the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Since then this denomination has taught more progressive and open policies than its predecessors. However, Mt. Zion and Woodstock United Methodist Church have chosen to continue as separate congregations.