The Villa Rica First United Methodist Church, which spent more than 100 years on North Avenue in downtown Villa Rica, will hold its first services Sunday, Dec. 16, at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. in a new, 18,000-square-foot sanctuary on Highway 61 near the Villa Rica V-Plex.
Sunday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. the congregation will get the new building ready for Christmas.
“We’ll have our first services on Sunday morning and then Sunday night, our first full day in here, we’ll decorate it for Christmas,” said the Rev. Derek Porter. “We’ll have a fellowship night and we’ll have Santa Claus and we’ll decorate it and have soup and chili and cornbread and just a great fellowship night for the church.”
The official name of the new location will be the Villa Rica First United Methodist Church at The Garden.
The addition of “garden” to the name of the church has obvious biblical meanings, from the first garden, the Garden of Eden, to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed for God’s will.
Porter and his congregation left no stone unturned in incorporating the garden theme in FUMC’s new sanctuary, from the green paint on the walls inside the building, to the vegetable garden the church has planted the past two years to help feed needy families behind a cottage that is part of the new property.
Starting early next year, Villa Rica First United Methodist plans to begin running a food pantry to help feed those in need in the community.
“Everything we do here is going to be using the garden theme,” Porter said. “We’ll do a sermon on it. It’s using the green imagery. We’re going to be focusing on recycling and being responsible. There’s
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garden imagery all the way through the Bible – stewardship of God, of what God has given us, stewardship of God’s resources and everything that God has entrusted us with.”
The church had been at the North Avenue location since 1895. Prior to that, the congregation met at a Methodist church in the Fullerville community going back roughly 150 years ago until that building burned down, according to Porter.
Porter said the the church was “landlocked” at the old building, so First United Methodist decided to sell the church this past January to World Changers International. But the history made at the old location and all those who had helped build up the FUMC there over the past century was something not lost on Porter.
“One of the things we did before we put a shovel in the ground over here is we talked about the history and that we’re not leaving the history behind,” said Porter. “Those are our roots, that period and that church and that building are our roots that we are using now to grow.”
With the new church under construction, Porter moved services for his 600-member congregation to Bay Springs Middle School on Jan. 15 and has held his sermons there for the past 48 weeks.
The new building gives FUMC room for 900 parishioners and there are plans for a larger, 24,000-square-foot facility to be built adjacent to the new church in the next five to six years, Porter said.
Aesthetic detail was something FUMC put a lot of focus on when designing its new church, especially with its high visibility from Highway 61. Three large wooden crosses scatter a field between the church property and the V-Plex. The driveway leading up to the church is lined with oak trees rather than traditional pear trees, a symbol of the church’s longevity in the community. And the church is covered in brick rather than metal with high-reaching arches around the exterior.
“We stand on the shoulders of saints of over 100 years in this community,” Porter said. “Of folks who’ve worked really, really hard. We get to celebrate this today, but there are some people who have been very generous, who work very, very hard that have allowed us to celebrate this today.”