First United Church has its roots in First Presbyterian Church (organized in 1885) and Princess Street Methodist Church (begun in 1888). The two congregations were involved in mission work very early on, and performed joint outreach projects since the early 1900s. By the time of the First World War, the national mission boards of both churches put the two congregations under their control in order that the mission work could continue. Princess Street Methodist Church, which had become Central Methodist Church in 1908, became the Turner Institute in 1916.
First United Church in Vancouver was established in 1925 through the amalgamation of First Presbyterian Church and the Turner Institute. The amalgamated congregation chose to meet in the Presbyterian Church building, which had been erected in 1892 at the corner of Gore and Hastings Streets. The minister, referred to as Superintendent, served as pastor to the congregation and had oversight of mission operations.
After church union, the old Turner Institute building was used for First United’s Welfare department, later known as Welfare Industries. The Rev. J. Richmond Craig, who had served as Superintendent of First Presbyterian Church from 1921, helped establish Welfare Industries, as well as Camp Fircom, and the congregation’s radio ministry. Welfare Industries was organized to provide employment, training, rehabilitation and opportunity for those unable to find employment in normal industries. Camp Fircom was established on Gambier Island as a fresh air camp for mothers and children. The Rev. Andrew Roddan is another significant Superintendent (1930-1948), who saw the mission through the Depression and war years. The original Presbyterian Church building was torn down in 1964 and the present building opened in 1965 at the same spot.
Welfare service work and advocacy programs have been the central components of the mission. Over the years, First United Church has mainly addressed the needs of the homeless, the unemployed, and ethnic groups (including the Finnish and Japanese congregations). In 2007, the congregation was disbanded, but the mission remained active and was incorporated as First United Church Community Ministry Society in 2014.