H I S T O R Y   o f   K N O X   U M C

The first Protestant worship service held on Philippine soil was conducted in Manila on 28 August 1898 attended by both American soldiers and Filipino civilians, barely two weeks following the surrender of Manila to the American military forces.  This service was conducted by Rev. George C. Stull, a Methodist chaplain and a member of the Montana Annual Conference assigned to the First Montana Volunteers that was a contingent of the US fleet that sunk the Spanish fleet on Manila Bay on 1 May 1898.  Another significant period was the first two weeks of March 1899 when Bishop James M. Thoburn visited Manila and organized the Methodist group into a charge in connection with the Singapore District of the Malaysia Mission Conference in Teatro Filipino.

From Teatro Filipino, the first Methodist congregation subsequently transferred to the Soldiers and Sailors Institute located on Calle Carriedo and what is now known as Rizal Avenue.  This congregation evolved into two worshipping congregations, one in English under Mr. Arthur Prautch and the other in Spanish under Mr. Nicolas Zamora.  When the relationship between the Americans and the Filipinos became severely strained because of the war between them, the American component transferred its services to the YMCA and eventually was organized in 1899 into what is known as Central UMC.  The remaining Filipino component was also formally organized into the congregation that is now known as Knox UMC, thus claiming the distinction of being the first Filipino Methodist Church. The period 1898-1899 thus marked the beginning of Evangelical Christianity and the Methodist movement in the Philippines and Knox UMC traces its roots to these conflux of events.

The Knox Church building was the first permanent Methodist structure to be erected in the Philippines. The idea of a large permanent building was first broached in the Philippines District Conference (under the Malaysia Annual Conference) of 1900.  In 1902 the District Conference appealed to the United States Board of Missions for $10,000 for a church building estimated to cost $20,000. On March 12, 1903, Rev. J. L. McLaughlin, the first Methodist Missionary sent to the Philippines, made the announcement in the evening session of the District Conference assembled at the Santa Cruz Tabernacle (which was a tent or temporary meeting place, and the forerunner of Knox Church) that the Philippine government had provided a site for a Filipino church. Calle Cervantes (Rizal Avenue) was already at that time the throbbing center of Santa Cruz District. The money needed for the construction of the church was not available, so a small chapel was erected. It was known as the Cervantes Methodist Church.

In 1906 a large permanent sanctuary was erected under the supervision of Rev. M. A. Rader, on the site where Knox UMC now stands. The church was first known as "First Methodist Church", and the original cornerstone bears this name. However, the name was later changed to Knox Memorial Methodist Church in honor of Mr. Henry Knox, founder of the famous Knox Hats of New York. Mr. Knox gave an initial amount of $5,000, and later donated through his will an additional $10,000 that was used in paying off a debt of P20,000.00 on the building. The total construction cost was $40,000.

From 1903 to the close of World War II, Knox continued to grow and remained basically a Tagalog Church. During the liberation of Manila in 1945, Central Methodist Church was totally destroyed so that at the close of the war, the Central congregation was combined with Knox Memorial to form Knox-Central Church. This marriage lasted until 1949 at which time Central was re-established as a church when its building reconstruction was completed. While Knox and Central were combined, the English service, which had been started at Knox, grew rapidly. This was due in part to the fact that there were many American servicemen in Manila at the time, and there were the students and other English speaking worshippers from Central.

In 1948 the Rev. John B. Holt came to the Philippines to serve as English pastor of Knox. Associated with him were Rev. Esteban T. Cruz, Tagalog pastor, and Rev. Roman Quisol, Ilocano pastor. Under the able leadership of these men, Knox grew rapidly. Plans were launched in 1948 to remodel and enlarge the church. The amount of $75,000.00 was requested from the 1948 to 1952 Advance Program of the Methodist Church to rebuild the sanctuary and add Sunday school facilities. 

Thus started the first rebuilding program consisting of several phases, which ended in 1964. The main sanctuary rebuilding was completed earlier in 1953.  The Married Couples Christian Fellowship was born bringing new dynamism and energy to the church.  The mission and outreach work of the church grew and as an additional service to the community, the church allowed the establishment of a kindergarten and an elementary school, Knox School, in 1967, augmenting the Bethel High School, which was originally set up as an exclusive girls high school in 1945 after the 2nd World War, becoming the first secular school of the Methodist Church in the country.  At this time, the Tagalog worshippers under the leadership of Rev. Catalino T. Garcia doubled its number and overtook the English service. Some illustrious members of Knox migrated to the US while others left to become the stalwarts of newly created Methodist churches around Metro Manila.

The seventies saw a more active participation of the younger generation in the affairs of the church as the elders gave way to young blood and their fresh ideas. MYAF and MYF volunteers were sent to remote places to help build churches and spread the gospel. The eighties were marked by even greater determination to evangelize and to win souls for Christ.  Bible study groups multiplied. More mission extensions were set up with material support and volunteers from Knox. Members donated medicines while Knox doctors, pharmacists, dentists, optometrists, nurses and members of Outreach and Evangelism provided free services and counseling.

In 1985, due to the deteriorating condition and the growing cost of maintenance of the main sanctuary and the educational building, the Administrative Board formed a Building Committee to embark on a 5-year program to renovate and rehabilitate the church sanctuary and buildings. After 32 years, the church building deserved badly needed major repairs and face lifting.  Included in the massive effort was the complete renovation and expansion of the Judge Isaac Puno Chapel that was completed in 1989 with brand new donated pews.  Approximately 3.5 million pesos were expended up to 1989 and it was a tribute to the membership of Knox and its Building Committee that no external loans and contributions were resorted to.

Even in the face of this big challenge, Knox UMC did not forget its mission objectives and bought a 792 sq. meter lot in Batangas City at a total cost of  P372,240.00 to perpetuate its mission work begun by the UMYAF in that place several years earlier.  The funding came from the members of Knox and was helped by the grant of an P80,000.00 short-term loan from the PAC, which was paid back in full in 1990. A partner in the US, Crossville UMC and the Harrison family in Tennessee agreed to finance the cost of the church building, parsonage and pews which amounted to P1.5M.  In 1992, Knox-Crossville UMC became the fourth edifice erected as a direct result of Knox mission work, the first three being St. John, Good Samaritan and Sucat United Methodist Churches.

The 5-year building program was completed in 1991 but the church’s Administrative Board extended the mandate of the Building Committee.  The flooring of the main sanctuary was changed to marble in 1992, greatly enhancing the beauty of the sanctuary, and was immediately followed by the construction of a 4-story multi-purpose building at the old parsonage site that initially provided at the ground floor a medical and dental clinic named after the late Mrs. Rebecca Capinpin, and individual rooms for the WSCS, UMM, UMYAF and UMYF.  New furniture was provided in all the rooms.  The Bethel High School used the second floor.

The 70’s, 80’s and 90’s again saw the rise of the members of Knox to important and prominent positions both in the private and public sectors.  During this period many members from Knox entered the ministry or became local lay pastors or deaconess such as Olive Ampil de Leon and her parents Rudy and Ruth Ampil, Noah Panlilio, Willie Umipig, Abraham Cruz, Vic Melad, Rommel Banag, Joash Jaime, Julbert de Leon, and Rolly Bautista.  In the judiciary, Knox produced judges and justices occupying salas and courts all the way to the Supreme Court – the late Judge Isaac Puno, Jr., the late Justice Crisolito Pascual who retired from the Court of Appeals, retired Ass. Justice Hugo Gutierrez of the Supreme Court, and the current Supreme Court Justice Reynato Puno.  The late Dr. Eliseo M. Pajaro received national awards as composer and conductor, Dr. Carlito Puno was President of PCU for many years increasing enrollment and facilities, while Prof. Rey Paguio with the UP Concert Chorus brought honors to the country by winning international choral competitions.

Natural calamities marked the early 90's such as the powerful twin earthquake that hit Baguio and other Luzon provinces including Pangasinan, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija in July 1990. Several United Methodist churches in the affected provinces collapsed.  Knox launched a drive among its members to bring badly needed relief goods and medicines not only to our fellow Methodists who were affected but also to our other stricken brothers and sisters.  Knox UMC became a collection and repacking center for relief goods for the PAC.

In June 1991, a catastrophe of historic proportions engulfed Central Luzon once again. Mt. Pinatubo, situated along the borders of Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac, erupted after lying dormant for more than 600 years.  A number of UMC churches, especially, in Zambales were totally destroyed.  Knox UMC was assigned to rebuild the church and school in Castillejos and provided roughly 75 % of the Castillejos UMC workers' salary for the first 12 months after the incident.  By October, the kindergarten students at the Aldersgate Kiddie School at the Castillejos UMC were back in the almost totally reconstructed school building with new furniture. By March 1992, an entirely new and much stronger and bigger concrete church building had been constructed at a cost of almost half-a-million pesos under the direct supervision of Knox UMC.  Knox continued its relief and medical outreach up to the mid-90s as lahar or lava mudflows from Mt. Pinatubo devastated parts of Zambales, Pampanga and Bataan every time there was heavy rain.

Knox continued its support of the Sauyo mission extension which it founded in 1987 and through regular visitations, evangelistic rallies and medical outreach, the Sauyo congregation grew. A new and permanent site was found and replaced the old lot that was leased.  Spurred by the $2,512.00 given by its Singaporean brethren, Knox UMC raised P649,000.00 to pay for the 850 sq. meter lot and another P364,519.00 for the church building that was constructed and completed in 1993 to become the fifth edifice erected from Knox UMC’s direct mission work.

Knox has always been a favorite site for the Philippines Annual Conferences owing to its historical past, strategic location and size that is needed to accommodate the hundreds of delegates.  Hosting of course imposes many responsibilities for the host church and Knox UMC has always managed to find willing volunteers to man the kitchen brigade, take care of lodging and security and ushering, take care of transportation and communications, and registration. 

1995 ushered in a period of retrospection and consolidation to better prepare the church for the next century.  Emphasis was given to the immediate surroundings and facilities of the church.  A strong and vibrant neighborhood ministry program was given serious attention.  The third and fourth floors of the Annex Building were added with the third floor converted to three parsonage units to facilitate construction work on the old parsonage building and provide pastors with new housing facilities.  In 2002, the fourth floor roof deck was converted to an additional two parsonages paving the way for the demolition of the old parsonage apartment units.

A Temple Builders program was launched in October 1997 enabling the congregation of Knox to honor their loved ones and to express their thanksgiving by pledging to underwrite the cost of rehabilitation of their chosen portion of the exterior walls and center ceiling of the main sanctuary.   The rehabilitation and painting work was completed that year.  In 2003, members donated funds for the complete repainting of the interior and exterior of the main sanctuary.

In 2000, Knox responded to the call to revive evangelism efforts in the Lemery area.  Workshops were held to train counselors and to plan for the support activities.  The towns of Lemery and Agoncillo were adopted as mission area and a medical optical dental and legal (MODEL) outreach in Agoncillo capped by an evangelistic rally launched the work.  This was followed by house-to-house visitations and Bible studies.  Two young men from the Aldersgate Worship Service of Knox served as fulltime mission pastors and the following year another mission pastor was added upon the inclusion of Taal to the Batangas mission area.  Worship services began in earnest in July 2001 and on February 14, 2004, Lemery Mission Extension changed its name to Knox Lemery UMC becoming the newest organized local church in the Philippines Annual Conference despite occupying only a modest chapel on a rented lot with about 40 worshippers on Sundays.

The leadership of the church continues to be strong and committed and not wanting in young blood.  Knox’ young people have led most of our outreach and evangelism work with the able support of its elders. Involvement has not been limited to the local church but extends to the district, annual conference, and central conference levels where Knox UMC members hold key positions. The church organizations, UMM, WSCS, MYAF, MYF, MCCF & YMCCF are in the forefront of the church’s mission and activities.  And the Knox Choir, Praise and Worship Team, Prayer Intercessors and Counselors continue to be essential parts of the church’s ministry inside and outside its walls.  

Let us remember all our church workers and lay people that labored before us.  Let us praise the Lord for 112 glorious years of Christian stewardship, witness, outreach and evangelization in His name!   To God be the honor and glory!







  | Knox United Methodist Church | 960 Rizal Ave., Sta. Cruz, Manila, Philippines |