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 one and a half miles southeast of Opelika. With a membership of 22 persons, this new congregation called their church Lebanon and 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 new building was erected at the southeast corner of Randolph and Calhoun Streets (present day North 7th Street and 2nd Avenue). The congregation grew and eventually became Methodist Episcopal Church South – Opelika station, and was supplied with a full-time pastor.
Continued growth necessitated yet another 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 first worship service held in our present location occurred on May 8, 1881.
Remodeling was done in 1909 which changed the outside appearance of the building. Added at this time were the classical front entrance, dome, stained glass, carpet, steam furnace, new pews, and furnishings. The large one room basement was divided into Sunday School rooms and the semi-circular assembly room with upper and lower rows of class rooms was also added at the rear of the Sanctuary. 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, a 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 continues to grow, 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. Today, you will find within our walls a true family of faith – a people intent on sharing God’s heart from the heart of Opelika as we seek to live out our mission of “Making Lifetime Followers of Jesus Christ.”
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