We Are Lithonia First United Methodist Church
Our church was founded during one of the darkest periods in American history, the Civil War. October 14, 1860, found a small group of Christians from the Rock Chapel community gathered in the village of Lithonia, for the purpose of praise and worship under the ministry of our first pastor, the Reverend Newdaygate B. Ousley. As a result, Lithonia Methodist Episcopal Church, South began its great ministry.
During those early days, the congregation met in a brush arbor and then in a one-room “meeting house,” in the proximity of the present education building. Progress and development were slow in those days, but the membership was determined that God’s Presence would be felt in this place. Over the next fifty years, a vestibule, two classrooms, and a magnificent bell were added to the facility. New members were added weekly.
Following the Civil War and approaching the turn of the century, with Reverend H. M. Strozier as pastor, our church remained part of a circuit which includes the churches of Rock Chapel, Wesley Chapel, Belmont, and Jacksonville.
During a quarterly meeting of the congregation in early 1910, plans were developed and approved for a new sanctuary. The architect for this new facility would be Mr. John Parks Almand, who had distinguished himself as a premier church architect. Soon, the new sanctuary rose from the ground in all of its granite beauty.
Bishop W. A. Chandler presided over the service for the “laying of the cornerstone” with the acceptance of Reverend W. P. King. The majestic new facility was opened for worship in the summer of 1911.
Throughout World War I and the Great Depression, the church continued its vital ministry to the community and in 1935, celebrated its 75th anniversary. Three years later, in 1938, the church would find the denomination resolving its regional differences and coming together to form what would be called The Methodist Church.
In the aftermath of World War II, the church would realize tremendous growth and prosperity that would result in several remodeling programs. Both the church and the parsonage received necessary repairs: the organ was paid for and the basement finished. With financial security of the post-war years, the church received a wonderful gift of chimes in 1947. A new pipe organ was added in 1956-57, greatly enhancing the worship experience.
On October 30, 1960, the church held a centennial celebration honoring its oldest members. Personal testimonies were shared as the congregation looked forward to the next 100 years.
The year 1968 once again brought the denominations to the table of reorganization. The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, primarily a northern church which embraced Wesleyan tenants, merged to form The United Methodist Church. Likewise, the Central Jurisdictional Conference was a part of the merger in 1968.
The 1970s would find the congregation busy about the work of witnessing to the community while engaging in Bible study and worship. It would also undertake an extensive building and remodeling program. With the growth of the church, a new educational building was constructed, complete with an elevator. Extensive remodeling of the sanctuary was begun to reflect a late 19th-century style of American Gothic Revival architecture. A freestanding bell tower was constructed to house the original church bell. On Sunday, February 9, 1975, the completed sanctuary was opened for worship, with a beautiful service of praise and thanksgiving.
The coming years would find the congregation in a time of great transition and change within the community. With renewed determination, the church reached out to meet the needs of the less fortunate, while community involvement became the watchword of the congregation. In 1994, the carillon was updated to a compact disc system.
With great joy and anticipation at the dawn of the new millennium, Lithonia First United Methodist Church prepared to further the vision and ministry of Jesus Christ. Sunday, October 14, 2010, marked 150 years of worship and service to the Lithonia community. Today, the church is experiencing a period of revitalization and enthusiasm for the journey. We rededicate ourselves to upholding the dreams of our ancestors who made it all possible.
The Best Is Yet to Come!