We come together as a church to serve each other and our neighbors – as the community of St. Paul that began more than one hundred years ago!
It started on Easter Sunday, April 21, 1867 when a group of members from the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church South The history of how St. Paul United Methodist Church came to be takes us back to an Easter Sunday afternoon on April 21, 1867. On this day, a group of members from the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church South (now Trinity United Methodist Church, located across from the Georgia State Capitol) began a mission at the old army hospital on Fair Street for wounded Civil War Veterans and their families. Such a large number of worshipers turned out for this Sunday School service that soon there was “standing room only” and the windows of the hospital were opened wide so the crowd gathered outside on the lawn could join in the singing and hear the bible stories. This special day marked the early beginnings of St. Paul UMC.
Early Years. Soon after, in 1870, a new church named St. Paul Methodist Episcopal South was built on Hunter Street (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive) and began with 63 members. After the turn of the century, the congregation had grown so large that they began planning to build a new stone church in the residential neighborhood of Grant Park, the current location of St. Paul UMC. Construction of the new church began in 1906. The first service was held in the new sanctuary in October of 1907 and was attended by over 1,200 members. The new church, constructed out of blocks of granite, was built in the Neo-Romanesque style and included intricate stained glass windows depicting the Resurrection and other biblical scenes. The large pipe organ, still in use today after being refurbished in the early 1990’s, was acquired from the Piedmont Cotton States Exhibition in 1887. Interior details include cove ceilings, decorative columns and capitals, paneled woodwork, and original heart pine wood floors.
Growing Years. By 1921, St. Paul ME had 2,345 members all living within walking distance to the church. In the late 1920’s the three-story brick education building was added for Sunday School classes and group meals. Throughout the 1930’s and into the 1940’s the Grant Park neighborhood thrived and was considered one of the best middle class neighborhoods in the city. At the end of World War II in 1945, there was a national trend for families to move away from the cities into the suburbs, which began the decline of the area. Major construction of Interstate 20, 75/85, and the stadium claimed more homes and displaced families, virtually cutting Grant Park in half and sending more long-time residents to the suburbs. By the early 1970’s, one member described Grant Park as a “neighborhood of sinking ships.” But the resilient spirit of St. Paul UMC and the neighborhood shined through these days as “urban pioneers” began moving into the area, attracted by the unique old homes and historical charm of Grant Park. This diverse new community fearlessly began tackling community issues like crime and education, and soon began turning the neighborhood around into the thriving place it is today.
Rising from the Ashes. In 1980, The Grant Park Learning Center was formed to provide childcare to families in the area, and was housed in the St. Paul UMC education building. In 1985 a predawn fire razed this building, and the congregation and community rallied together to rebuild the Learning Center which was completed in 1987. In the early 1990’s the sanctuary was in need of renovation, most apparent by the falling plaster over the heads of the congregation. Face with closing the church for good or raising repair funds, the small congregation chose to raise the needed funds to keep the doors of St. Paul UMC open. Repairs began in the spring of 1991 with a new roof, refinishing walls, floors, and pews, and reworking areas of the sanctuary to fit the church’s new space needs for meeting areas. The lettering frieze around the ceiling perimeter was selected by the congregation and painted by church members. In April of 1994 the work was complete and the congregation resumed worship on Palm Sunday.
Today, ongoing restoration projects continue as members of the congregation preserve the beauty and history of St. Paul UMC. We have a thriving sports and recreation program, Sunday School classes and activities for our children and youth. While taking care of our building, we raise money to help neighbors in need through our Good Neighbor program. Though our membership is in the hundreds rather than the thousands, our small but active congregation strives to remain a vital part of the Grant Park and Southeast Atlanta community, and to be a Good Neighbor.