History and Growth
Our Church History
Covington First Methodist was organized in the early 1820's. To meet the needs of the expanding population into the Creek Nation, various church missions were established on the west side of the Alcovy River. The Yellow River Mission was the most closely associated with the present church. After becoming a circuit-rider station in the Wesley tradition, the church shared ministers with Madison, Monroe, Mount Pleasant and other congregations. The earliest site for a permanent building was on lot 15, facing Church Street and bounded by South and Elm. Behind the church was a cemetery where many of the weary migrants from other Georgia counties and states beyond found their final resting place. The Church owned the cemetery until 1875 when it was sold to the city, and combined with the Citizen's Cemetery (City of Covington Cemetery) which had spread behind it.
This original site was outgrown by 1830 when the Board of Trustees purchased a lot on the corner of Washington and Lee Streets and built a wooden church structure there. In the following prosperous years prior to the civil war, the community and church continued to grow, and by 1854 the current location on Conyers Street was secured. Greek Revival opulence, often associated with the South, flourished in Covington, and the present structure was built and completed around 1856. The church building of 1830 was moved to it's present location on Dried Indian Creek and today houses the congregation of Bethelehem Baptist Church.
The exterior of the current building is described as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in existence today. Its classical full façade portico boasts six Corinthian columns topped by a balanced pediment. Its unique cupola (the bell tower) was likely added sometime after the original construction, perhaps in the late 1880’s. This church was utilized as a hospital during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Pews were removed, and wounded soldiers from both north and south were cared for here. The present interior design, which reflects a change from the formal, classical style to the more ornate vernacular of the Victorian era was completed around 1897, with “colored glass, softer pews and a greater dedication towards the pulpit.”
In 1911, a Sunday School annex was added, providing a semicircular set of classrooms and a place for overflow crowds from the sanctuary. It was nick-named the “Bee Hive” because of its round design. In 1954, a new Sunday School annex including a parlor, kitchen and large fellowship hall was added.
The beautiful chandelier hanging in the main sanctuary is remarkable for it’s size and excellent condition. It is larger than a chandelier of similar design which hangs in the United States White House. It weighs 1100 pounds (550 pounds of brass and 550 pounds of lead crystal). The crystal prisms and rope chains were made in Czechoslovakia and the lead crystal ball which hangs from the bottom is considered irreplaceable.
Mrs. Flora Glenn Candler originally purchased the chandelier from the Capitol Theatre on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. Mrs. Candler donated the fixture to Glenn Memorial UMC on the Emory University campus in Decatur. In the 1970’s it was removed from the church and placed in the historic chapel on the campus of Oxford College of Emory University in Oxford, Georgia. The weight of the chandelier began to cause damage to the chapel’s ceiling and walls, compromising the integrity of the building. In 1990, it was taken down and donated to Covington First UMC. It was installed in the church along with new recessed lighting, to the glory of God and in memory of Coe David Ramsey, Jr. and Mary Frances Cowan Ramsey by Sam and Becky Ramsey.
Engineering in the church attic includes a winch from which the chandelier is hung, and multiple safety cables. A ratchet wheel allows the chandelier to be lowered down for hand cleaning. Long-handled ostrich plume feather dusters are used to dust the prisms. Periodically, a solution of diluted ammonia is used to clean the crystals, which are then are dried individually by hand.
The latest addition to the main church structure was a two story education and office wing completed in 1990. This space houses Sunday School classes, adminstration offices, as well as the church Preschool. Over the last 20+ years, the church has continued to grow and plan, gradually acquiring adjoining residential properties within the entire block south to the conjuction of Monticello and Church Streets. The final acquisition to this property was the purchase of the old Episcopal Sanctuary and annex in 2009, which has become our chapel for contemporary and children's worship, as well as much needed additional meeting space.