The Earliest Methodists in Madison
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, north Georgia was still frontier and Circuit Riders traveled between remote outposts to minister to settlers.
Around 1806, two young Methodist preachers served the Apalachee Circuit, a large area spanning the land between the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers. The circuit covered 30 points. In 1807, MFUMC was chartered. In 1808, the church was put on a two-point circuit, first with Monticello and then with Eatonton.
A building was constructed in 1808. Little is known about the actual site, but records tell us that it was filled to overflowing at all services. It is believed to have been the very first church built in Madison. That building burned and, in 1810, the Methodists began holding services in the newly constructed courthouse.
The Second Church Building
In January 1824, the Georgia Legislature granted the congregation one acre of land to build a new church. This building, completed in 1825, was of simple frame construction. Inside were plain pine seats with a dividing aisle down the middle to create designated seating for men and women during services. Sadly, fire consumed this building, as well, (although some accounts state that what is now Clark’s Chapel Baptist Church is, in fact, the the old Methodist church) – but the Methodists were established in Madison and were not deterred from continuing a very strong and united ministry.
A New Era
In 1844, members constructed a beautiful Gothic Revival style brick building, which still stands at the corner of Porter and Academy Streets. In 1844, Bishop J.D. Andrew dedicated the building – interestingly, this was the same year that the Methodist church split over the issue of slavery.
In the 1840s and 1880s, the North Georgia Conference convened in the building since it was one of the “largest and finest church buildings in the state.” Members welcomed Conference attendees by offering lodging for both people and horses.
In 1849, the Methodist Female Institute stood next door to the church where the Episcopal Parish House stands today. One of the earliest girls college in the United States, it remained open until the Civil War during which it served as a Confederate Hospital. The building burned down in 1869. Mrs. Dolly Sumner Lunt Burge was a teacher there and she tells about it in her diary, published by the University of Georgia Press.
The first Methodist Parsonage was built in 1902 and stands just behind the old church building on Porter Street. The house still stands today as a private residence.
In 1912, the congregation deconsecrated the building due to construction of our current Asbury building. In the interim, that building has served several different purposes and today houses the Episcopal Church of the Advent. The building is open during Tours of Homes and, despite some necessary remodeling through the years, the interior narthex and nave are generally unaltered.
The Asbury Building
In 1914, the present building was completed in the Akron plan, a popular design for Sunday Schools at the time. The design takes its name from the city of Akron, Ohio, where it was first developed. Towards the end of the 1800s, Protestant Sunday Schools were taught mainly by a Superintendent who instructed the entire Sunday School body at one time from a central location. Typically, the Superintendent would begin the day’s lesson, students would break out into age-grouped classes, and at the end, they would reconvene centrally for the Superintendent to close out the day’s lessons. Having classrooms radiate out from the central meeting space facilitated quick and efficient assembly.
As time passed, Sunday School evolved into what we are familiar with today, and this construction plan fell out of favor. Many churches remodeled to adapt to changing times. There are very few Akron Plan interiors intact today, and we have one that has been virtually unaltered since it was built in the early 1900s.
The crosses in the brickwork of the eaves are Byzantine style. The woodwork in the sanctuary is mahogany veneer. The pews were refinished in 1988.
The stained glass windows were made in the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany. In 1983 the windows were repaired and a protective covering was placed over them. In 2022, the windows underwent another refurbishment.
In 2013, the Asbury building underwent a total renovation to meet the needs of a growing and evolving congregation.
When the first organ was installed, instrumental music was controversial. Many Protestants were unused to accompaniment when singing hymns and one member is said to have stuffed cotton in his ears when the first organ was installed.
In 1915, this organ was installed in the sanctuary. In 1987, the organ was rebuilt to increase from 10 ranks to 11 ranks with 28 stops and over 1,200 pipes.
In the summer of 2000, in order to accommodate the need for a larger choir loft, the organ was removed, the ranks reconfigured, and 42 additional digital ranks were added. The original console was replaced with a 3 manual digital organ.
A New Generation
In 2010, the congregation added the Wesley Building for additional educational space, preschool, and a contemporary worship service. In 2011, the Epworth building was renovated to convert the Fellowship Hall to a Youth Center. MFUMC operates totally debt free.