The Centenary Story

Founded in 1884, the church now known as Centenary United Methodist Church received its name because its work was begun in the centennial year of organized Methodism in America. The church actually began as a Sunday School, a part of the mission work of Macon Methodism. The Sunday School met in the basement of a residence about a block down Ash Street from Centenary's present location. The original church was a wooden building, octagon in shape, at the corner of Ross and Ash Streets. This building was used for about 15 years and still stands today, though it is now a residence and is sadly in a state of disrepair.

For many years, Centenary's neighborhood was a bustling residential district of downtown Macon known as Beall?s Hill. Reflecting on this time, Miss Odessa Pierce Williams later wrote, ?Sunday School for years, both in the old and the new church, was held in the afternoon. The attendance was very good. I remember one time the attendance was over a thousand. This was before the days of the autos and there were no other attractions, except sometimes a ride on the street car to Crumps Park. 

In 1891, Centenary recognized the need for a larger facility and purchased the lot at the corner of College and Ash Streets for $3,250. In 1911, construction of Centenary's present building on that lot was completed and the new Sanctuary was dedicated. The ensuing years were marked by active church and neighborhood life for Centenary and the Beall's Hill community.

By the mid-1950s, Macon was rapidly growing on the north side and residents of Centenary's neighborhood and members of the church both began to drift from the downtown Macon area. It was about 1960 when an announcement was made that the cross-town leg of I-75 would be built 3 blocks north of Centenary Church. In 1982, a Centenary member wrote, The Interstate has been in use for several years now and has forever changed the concept of Centenary being a neighborhood church. 

Indeed, Centenary's neighborhood had changed dramatically from a thriving, middle class, mostly Anglo community to one that was deeply impoverished, violent, and mostly African-American. By the 1990s, Beall's Hill was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Macon. Attendance at Centenary's worship services had dwindled to as few as 30 or 40 on Sunday mornings, and the church was faced with the very real possibility of closing its doors.

Faced with these dramatic shifts, it became apparent that neither Centenary nor its neighborhood could survive without making some significant changes. The remaining members of Centenary refused to give up hope and held onto a certain calling to be an outpost of Jesus' love in a community that other churches had deserted. New ideas were considered that would open Centenary up to its community, making it a more diverse place. In 2005, Centenary entered a covenant with the United Methodist Church's Office of New and Revitalized Congregational Development in South Georgia to plan strategically for the revitalization of the church. Under this covenant, Centenary committed itself to diversity, openness, creativity, risk, patience, and prayer.

Now the tide has turned and life is returning to Centenary and Beall's Hill! We embrace our community rather than insulate ourselves from it. Our diverse community is represented in the diversity of our congregation. Our commitment to community-building within our congregation and community is steadfast. More and more people are choosing to worship at Centenary. Many others are choosing to sink roots here and to join us on the journey as we seek to be a diverse community that joins with God in doing a new thing. Centenary is an exciting place to be!