Allen Memorial UMC History
Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Oxford, Georgia has a long and rich history, beginning with the purchase of land by the Methodist Church in 1836 for the establishment of a town and college. The town was named Oxford after the University in England attended by John Wesley,the founder of Methodism. All of the streets were named for Methodist leaders. The college was named Emory College (later becoming Emory University) after Methodist Bishop John Emory. When the college opened in 1838 the Oxford Methodist Church held services in a chapel on the campus. By 1841 Oxford's historic “Old Church” was built on Wesley Street and dedicated by Bishop William Capers to meet the spiritual needs of the college students and the community. In 1844 an Oxford resident Bishop James Andrew was at the center of a split in the Methodist Church due to his ownership of a slave. This led to the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. [The Northern and Southern churches were reunited in 1939.] During the War Between the States, Old Church was used as a hospital for both Federal and Confederate wounded and the citizens of the town, both black and white, held services in a chapel which had been built for the slaves. This was located in a portion of the Oxford Historic Cemetery. After the War, the Old Church was the scene of one of the late nineteenth century's most important sermons. Atticus Haygood, a Methodist bishop and the President of Emory College, delivered his famous "New South" speech, widely credited with having been the inspiration for Henry Grady’s (namesake of Grady Hospital in Atlanta) more famous speech of a similar title.
Many important Methodists lived in Oxford during the 19th century. An early resident and Emory College president was Isaac Hopkins, who became the first president of Georgia Tech. L.Q.C. Lamar became a U.S. Senator and Supreme Court Justice. Asa Candler, the founder of Coca Cola, attended the college and donated the land in Atlanta where Emory University now sits. His brother Warren Candler became a Methodist bishop. 1972 the City of Oxford was designated a Methodist Shrine by the United Methodist Church because of its historical connection to the Church.
In the early 20th century, the congregation moved to its present location. Completed in 1910, the beautiful new church was named Allen Memorial in memory of Emory graduate Young John Allen, Jr., who became one of the nineteenth century's great missionaries, spending many years in China. The "Old Church" is no longer a Methodist Church but today remains one of Newton County's most precious historical sites. It is still used for meetings, weddings, concerts, and other events. In the 1950's, the church built an addition to the sanctuary building which provided Sunday School rooms, a chapel, pastoral and secretarial offices, and other needed facilities. As the congregation has thrived further improvements have continued, including a playground and another building, The Family Life Center, which provides additional classroom space, bathrooms, a large kitchen and a dining/meeting hall. The meeting hall was named Lovern Hall for John Lovern, a long time member of the church.
Although Emory College moved to Atlanta in 1919 and became Emory University, the college campus in Oxford has continued to be a part of the University, the town, and the church. In 1985 the minister of the church gave up the job of part-time college chaplain and the college hired a full-time chaplain. However, students of Oxford College of Emory University continue to participate in the life of Allen Memorial United Methodist Church.
Allen Memorial United Methodist Church is a congregation with a long history of serving God in Oxford, Georgia and Newton County. The Old Church and the 1910 Sanctuary stand as powerful testimonies to the rich blessings which God has bestowed on Oxford in the past two centuries. As new generations of faithful, caring people gather to pray, worship, serve, and fellowship, they carry on the strong tradition of Methodism in Oxford, Georgia.