First united Methodist Church, Opelika, Alabama

History

The First United Methodist Church of Opelika has a rich and varied history, a history that parallels the city of Opelika itself. The first settlers moved into the Creek Indian territory in 1836-37. The first house of worship was built in 1837 by Daniel Bullard one and a half miles southeast of Opelika. This cabin of split logs and boards was 22×24 feet in size and cost $220. With a membership of 22 persons, the congregation called their church Lebanon. The church became a part of the Russell Circuit with local pastors filling in.

Twenty years later, having outgrown the little log building, the church was moved into the village of Opelika. In 1857, a rectangular wooden structure was erected at the southeast corner of Randolph and Calhoun Streets (present day North 7th Street and 2nd Avenue). The congregation grew, became Methodist Episcopal Church South – Opelika station, and was supplied with a full-time pastor.

Growing pains again necessitated a move and in 1879 a handsome brick structure was erected on the present site at the corner of Jefferson and Randolph Streets (present day corner of Avenue A and South 7th Street). The cost was $12,000, paid in full by the first service held in the building on May 8, 1881. The same building exists today as the sanctuary. In 1897, the auditorium and organ were damaged by fire. Repairs were made for $2,500 and a new organ was purchased for $1,250.

Remodeling was done in 1909 which changed the outside appearance of the building. The steeple was removed, but the walls and auditorium were kept intact. Added at this time were the classical front entrance, dome, stained glass, carpet, steam furnace, new pews, and alter furniture. The large one room basement was divided into Sunday School rooms. The semi-circular assembly room with upper and lower rows of class rooms facing the rostrum was also added. With these improvements, the famed Sunday School, under the dynamic leadership of J. Ben Greene, and the church continued to grow. A new education building was constructed in 1954 on a lot adjoining the church. This facility included class rooms, parlor, kitchen, fellowship hall, offices and chapel.

Periodic refurbishing has been done through the years. In 1987, the exterior of the church was renovated. By restoring the outside of the church to its original beauty, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A historical marker was erected that designates Opelika First United Methodist Church as the first religious organization of any denomination in the area.

In 2003, the new educational space was dedicated to the service of God. The four-story addition includes exciting youth educational rooms, a large fellowship hall and state of the art kitchen. It hosts the Sonshine Preschool and exciting, children-friendly classrooms. The fellowship hall and youth rooms are equipped with such technology as to enable more offerings in information and learning.

As the church has grown, so have its programs to include appropriate activities for all age groups. A committed congregation and dedicated ministers have provided a great heritage for future generations.