Homecoming, new plans coming to 1st United Methodist Church

Published 2:00 pm Saturday, August 18, 2018

AMERICUS — Americus First United Methodist Church will hold a Homecoming service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday with a lunch following, and everyone is welcome.
The church, located on South Lee Street, has a rich history in Americus, and is unveiling some plans to further facilitate the church and its work in the community. Its theme is “Building Across Generations.”

In 1835, the Rev. Joseph Edwards, a circuit rider, organized the first Methodist church in Americus. He held services in a small building on Ashby Street.
In 1844, the Trustees of the young church bought one acre of land on the high road from Americus to Starksville (now Lee Street) for $30. The next year an adjoining lot was purchased. In 1845, a simple frame church was built facing Church Street. There were approximately 15 families affiliated with the church at that time.
In 1854, Americus was made a station church with the Rev. J.R. Littlejohn as the first pastor. In 1856, a spacious wooden building was erected on Church Street and this building served the Methodist congregation for the next 50 years. In 1905, a beautiful brick structure facing Lee Street was erected under the ministry of the Rev. J.P. Wardlow. This church was completely destroyed by fire on Aug. 5, 1922. One year later the cornerstone was laid for the present Sanctuary Building with Bishop W.A. Candler conducting the ground-breaking ceremony.
In September 1925, worship began in the beautiful building that still serves the congregation today. The members of this great church accomplished a tremendous feat by pledging and paying in full the debt of $45,000 in less than 10 years. The last $30,000 was collected over a six-week period from March 3, 1934 to April 15, 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression. Although this building was built to meet the needs of that day, it is the same building the congregation worships in today.
In 1962, property adjoining the church was purchased from Mrs. Amos Hightower and, under the leadership of the Rev. Vernard Robertson, a beautiful new Chapel and Education Building were constructed on this property. Although these buildings were built to meet the needs of that day, they are the same buildings we worship, study and eat in today, more than 50 years later.
In 2013, property at 201 E. Church St. was purchased using funds donated for this purpose and funds obtained from a pheasant shoot fund-raiser organized by Mr. and Mrs. Steve Hudson. There was no particular purpose in mind for this property but the members of the church felt that since this property was up for sale, it was in the church’s best long-term interest to add this adjoining property to its holdings.

Where they are
The church was informed in 2016 that under the current fire code, they could no longer use the upstairs of the Sanctuary Building for small children. With their Bright Beginnings Preschool occupying the first-floor classrooms of this building, the decision was made to move the children to the Education Building. To accomplish this, the church office, ministers’ offices and two adult classrooms had to be moved. All of this was accomplished using funds that primarily came from several bequests from former members. The children are already running out of room and need the additional space now occupied by the Chancel Choir.

The church’s Bright Beginnings Preschool has consistently been rated as the number one preschool in Sumter County. Under the leadership of the directors and teachers of Bright Beginnings, literally thousands of children, many of whom are not church members, have received the message of the love of Jesus Christ through this wonderful ministry. As a state-licensed preschool, there are many regulations concerning numbers of children, room sizes, restroom facilities and many others that must be met. To maximize efficiency and plan for the future needs of the preschool, several changes will be made.
Two adult Sunday school classes have been displaced due to the need of moving our children’s ministry to the Education Building.
Youth and children are an essential focus at Americus First United Methodist Church. They propose to relocate its youth ministry and modify the children’s area in the Education Building to accommodate for growth of these two ministries.

What is planned
Phase One:

A. Re-purpose the Education Building.

B. Build an enclosed breezeway between the alleyway near the Church Street parsonage and the South entrance to the Sanctuary.

Phase Two:

A. Once the Education Building has been completed, they can turn their attention to the Sanctuary Building. They propose that Bright Beginnings be brought over to the Education Building to share the space with the Children’s Ministry.

Overall, the church plans to increase the accessibility to all points of the campus for congregants and guests of any age. Traffic flow and drop-off points will be greatly improved. These changes will occur in the various stages of construction that we anticipate.
The foresight of those that planned, built and paid for the facilities they still use today should be an inspiration to the church members, who believe it is their responsibility to continue the legacy they created by paying it forward for the generations to come.

“I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me [us], and also the words of the

king had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let’s start building!” So they committed themselves to the

common good.” (Nehemiah 2:18)