About Saipan Immanuel United Methodist Church
The congregation of ten persons first met on April 5, 1992, worshipping as the English-language United Methodist congregation of Immanuel Methodist Church (Korean). Easter Sunday, April 16, 1995, the congregation of seventy persons was chartered by Hawaii District Superintendent Rex Britt as Immanuel United Methodist Church.
Until recently, IUMC has been the only mainline denominational church on an island of nearly 70,000 persons. Predominantly Roman Catholic, Saipan also has several Baptist churches and a wide variety of independent evangelical groups. In early 2006 a woman priest from the Philippines served the small St. Paul's Episcopal Church. There are two dozen churches ministering in a wide variety of languages (Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, and several Pacific Island languages). The closest United Methodist Church is Guam UMC, 1410 miles southwest of Saipan.
While IUMC's services are in English, the congregation includes persons from many ethnic and national backgrounds (Fijian, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Thai, the U.S. and indigenous Chamorro). Many have a background in some form of Methodism or Wesleyan tradition, while others come from various mainline denominations, including Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran/Universalist, Roman Catholic as well as Buddhists. A wide range of educational levels is represented: some persons with medical/health professional degrees; others have not completed high school.
There were originally three separately chartered Methodist congregations on the island each related to Immanuel Methodist: Korean, founded in 1989; English, founded in 1992; and Filipino, founded in 1996. The Filipino congregation was originally part of IUMC but later unilaterally chartered by a District Superintendent as a local congregation of one of the Philippine Annual Conferences. The Filipino Fellowship has no pastor but continues with lay leadership in cooperation with Rev. Myung Taek Lee, the founding pastor of Immanuel Methodist (Korean). Prior to coming to Saipan, Rev. Lee established a Korean-speaking Methodist Church in Seattle, Washington.
IUMC currently has seventy-three (73) members with approximately 35 children on the Preparatory Roll. Average Sunday worship attendance in 2005 was 52; 49 in 2006; 2007 average attendance to date is 66. A majority of members (including constituent and affiliate) come to Saipan on two or three year contracts. These include doctors, nurses, midwives, physical therapists, dental hygienists, attorneys, teachers, hotel workers, accountants, restaurant workers, housekeepers, farmers, maintenance workers, and construction workers. Several current members are foreign contract workers who have lived in Saipan five or more years by renewing or extending contracts.