The history of the First United Methodist Church of Decatur can be traced almost to the beginning of the City of Decatur. When the Alabama Territory was founded on March 1, 1817, there were already three hundred families living in this area south of the Tennessee River known as Rhodes Ferry. In 1820 the community was renamed for the American Revolutionary War hero Stephen Decatur.
Early efforts of the Methodist church were concentrated around a camp meeting ground near Trinity. Just exactly when Methodism came to Decatur, no one knows. Decatur became a Methodist preaching place on the Franklin or Lawrence Circuit in the early 1820’s. The first regular Methodist preaching in Decatur was done by Alexander Sales and John B. McFerrin in 1827.
The first permanent structure for the Methodist services was erected in Decatur in 1835. It was a brick building that because of a gallery, had the appearance of a two story structure. The gallery, intended for the accommodation of members who were slaves, extended around both sides and the front of the building. During the Civil War the church was used by Union and Confederate troops as a hospital and camping site. Before the end of the war the building was deconstructed and the raw materials were used for various military uses such as cooking stoves, firewood, and defensive structures. During this time both the Methodists and Presbyterians met together in a log house until another church was built.
In 1868 a new church was built on the lot where the present building stands. This church was completed in a period of six weeks. In 1876 a cupola and vestibule were added. In 1898, this building was placed on rollers and moved across to the east side of Canal Street to make room for the new church.
In 1898, during the pastorate of Dr. J. B. Gregory, the construction of the present building was begun and completed. The plans for the building, submitted by a Mr. Breeding of Chattanooga, called for more than 300,000 pressed bricks. The three large stained glass window were made by Mr. A. G. Bethard of New Decatur and the glad furnished by the Atlanta Glass and Art Company. The pews were made in Jackson, Tennessee by the Southern Seating and Cabinet Company. The finial and the finishing of the tower was done by the Decatur Cornice & Roofing Company. The sanctuary has a seating capacity of about 350. The new building was dedicated on April 2, 1899.
After first planning for it in 1924, in 1927 the Reverend R. T. Tyler and the congregation approved a plan to build a three-story Sunday School annex on the west side of the sanctuary. In 1955, Reverend Minar L. Triplett announced plans for another addition. The church had outgrown its present building and plans for the new addition included a large fellowship hall, modern kitchen, nursery rooms, additional classrooms plus modernizing part of the present departments and rooms.
In 1990, the Reverend J. Charles Boling announced a three-story building and renovation project for the church to meet the needs of an ever-growing congregation. The project included new classrooms and offices and an elevator that would make the new area handicapped accessible. The ceremonial ribbon-cutting occurred on March 29, 1991.
In 1998 a renovation was completed that included new parking areas, sidewalks, landscaping, and remodeling of some of the Sunday School classrooms. In 2004 construction was begun on a new three-story addition which houses new classrooms, music rooms and a large fellowship hall.
The church buildings have taken many shapes over the last century, but one thing has remained constant. For 100 years, First United Methodist has welcomed worshippers to experience together the Glory of God. We invite you to join us as we seek to continue a strong history of Growing in Christ & Sharing God’s Love.