Jonesboro First United Methodist Church
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Gather - Grow - Give - Go... with Gratitude!


170 years and counting …

There are very few records from the early days of the church here in Jonesboro. We do know the Jonesboro Methodist Church was established in 1845, though no record of a deed could be found. Eight members are listed for the first congregation. By 1850, the roll had grown to 15 members. When someone joined the church, they were given a “certificate” or church letter, which seems to have been very important. In one instance, a committee had to be appointed to determine whether a certain person really had a certificate or not. Another case was about a certain woman who had let her church letter “run out” so to speak, and had to be voted back into membership. In other words, letters of membership expired just like current day driver’s licenses. It appears that the “certificates” or “letters” of membership became outmoded by the end of the 1930’s. Up until the early 1900’s, it was mandatory that if a member was accused of dissension concerning the discipline of the church, or personal offense, slander, lying, gossiping, or immoral conduct, they could be tried by the church and, if found guilty, their certificate would be revoked (or you might say they were given their “walking papers.”)

The first church for the Methodists (of which we have no picture) was located on Stockbridge Street, on the east side of the railroad, and it was in Fayette County, since Clayton County had not yet been formed. The official designation was “Methodist Episcopal Church.” A few years later, the church bought property on the west side of the railroad and built a white frame, columned structure which was used as the church until 1905. This structure stood until a few years ago in the area of our back parking lot, on what is know known as College Street. It later was purchased by the First Baptist Church, and when they no longer had use for it, they offered it to any historical group who wanted to buy it and have it moved. 

The third church building was located on Main Street and used until the spring of 1966 when it was torn down to make room for the present building erected on the same site. Rev. Fred Shellnut was our pastor during the erection of the new building. Changes and additions have been going on ever since. The present Youth Building, having been adjoined to the 1905 building was moved to its present location. The Administration building (originally the Education Building), was erected in 1955 and dedicated in 1958 by Bishop Arthur Moore. That building is still used for Sunday School classes.

The new education building was erected in 1966, the Christian Activities Building in 1984. In 1989, we purchased a new parsonage, which was sold in 2004. There are two houses in Jonesboro that have served as parsonages that are still standing. South of the church on the left-hand side of Main Street is a two-story white frame house, most recently used as an antique store, that was the Methodist parsonage in the 1930’s. One of our members, Lucy Huie, was the preacher’s daughter and remembers her time spent as a child in that house. Her father was the Rev. Cline. The other parsonage is on the north side next to the Lee Street Elementary School.

A Christian Activities Building was completed in 1984. The yellow brick house on the south corner was removed, parking revamped and paved, and the grounds landscaped. Someday, the church leaders may find a use for the south lot, but for now, the green grass looks good, and the area had been used for the Pumpkin Patch in October and yard sales organized by our youth ministries with funds used for mission and outreach.

By 2005, JFUMC membership had grown to 1456. Substantial increase in “outreach” to new members and “congregational activities” were initiated beginning in the mid 1990’s. These activities included: new visitor “Bread Outreach” project; Vacation Bible School and dedication of a new “Youth Building”; missions to Russia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and other countries. Locally, we helped build three Habitat for Humanity homes, in cooperation with other United Methodist Churches in Clayton County.

Entering the new millennium JUMC established a stronger visual presence on Main Street, expanding the narthex in the front of the sanctuary. A larger gathering area, parlor, restrooms, worship and orchestra areas were added along with a large bell tower. No doubt we will do no more than catch our collective breaths before we expand again so that we can continue to grow in ministry and service to this community as servants of the living God.

 Estelle N. Lantzy, Church Historian