Avondale Pattillo UMC closes, joins Decatur First UMCAvondale Pattillo United Methodist Church has closed its doors after 50 years in operation. The church property will become part of Decatur First UMC. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
This story has been updated.
Avondale Estates, GA — After 50 years of serving the community, Avondale Pattillo United Methodist Church has closed its doors. Decatur First United Methodist Church is the new owner of the property.
Avondale Pattillo UMC was founded after the merger of two churches in 1971. Pattillo UMC, which was located on the south side of the Decatur railroad tracks, and organized in 1920. Avondale UMC, which was in the old Avondale school building on Clarendon Avenue and began its ministry in 1939.
“The purchase of the Avondale Church’s property by MARTA provided the major funding for acquiring the seven acres of open land on Covington Highway and the beginning of a new church with the strengths of both churches,” said the Rev. Frank Windom, the pastor at Avondale Pattillo UMC.
In October 1971, ground was broken for the construction of the sanctuary and educational building, according to the church’s website.
The church was built to be handicapped accessible and reflect the motif of the city with beautiful trees and to be an open campus at its location at 3260 Covington Highway, Windom added.
“The new location allowed the church to become a place for ministry outreach to the larger community, especially the [former] United Methodist Children’s Home and Decatur Emergency Aid Ministry,” Windom said. “The new church reached out to the new international residents whose first homes were in the apartments behind the church. The International School found its home on the campus for several years.”
The first worship service at Avondale Pattillo UMC was held in December 1972. The church began the preschool and bought the parsonage on Majestic Circle in 1974, constructed Friendship Hall in 1975 and began the Avondale Pattillo UMC Christian School in 1997.
The church was also home to the International Community School, a DeKalb County charter school, for 10 years and began leasing the education building to the school in 2002.
Avondale Pattillo UMC was annexed into the city of Avondale Estates in 2010.
At the time of closing, the church had 100 attending or homebound members. About 35-65 people attended worship on Sunday mornings and during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the church had 150-175 weekly Facebook followers.
Avondale Pattillo UMC gifted their property to Decatur First UMC with the approval of the leadership of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Decatur First UMC voted to receive the Avondale Pattillo property at a church conference on Feb. 27. Decatur First took ownership of the property on March 1.
“In circumstances where there is declining membership and available funds don’t allow for a church to be sustained, our denomination has guidelines in place to direct the congregation and its leadership through the process of closing its property and moving the membership to another United Methodist Church,” said Sybil Davidson, conference communicator for the North Georgia Conference. “Closing is a difficult decision, but a selfless one, made by church members.”
Over the last five years since Windom had been the pastor, the church realized it needed to be larger and gain more congregation members to pay the bills and “we may become too large for us to be us,” Windom said.
“We, as Avondale Pattillo church, have been working diligently to maintain the property and maintain our ministry for over five years,” he added. “Last year, we came to realize that we no longer have the energy, time, money, and people to support both the property and the ministry. But we have remained hoping for a new ministry which will preserve our beautiful campus and place of ministry.”
In planning for the church’s future and property, the members of the church realized that their sister church, Decatur First UMC, was exploring the possibilities of a new ministry.
“Decatur First had a vision similar to ours,” Windom said. “They wished to have a place with an open campus and its trees. They wanted the campus to be the location for a ministry with the larger community. Their dreams were our hope. We gifted our property to Decatur First so that our old bones can become new bones with new life, and the remnant of Avondale Pattillo members now is planting new families in many new places.”
The Rev. Dalton Rushing, senior pastor at Decatur First UMC, said this is quite a gift.
“The Avondale Pattillo property will continue to be used for church activities,” Rushing said. “Decatur First’s members and lay leadership are excited to be able to dream about what kind of church programming might happen on the campus of APUMC, from working with nonprofit partners doing community ministry to launching a new worship experience some time down the road. This generous gift extends the reach of Decatur First’s mission.”
He added that he’s proud of the way Decatur First has accepted its new members.
“A number of members of Avondale Pattillo UMC will be joining Decatur First UMC as members,” Rushing said. “I have been so proud of the ways in which Decatur First’s members have welcomed the new folks from Avondale Pattillo. Other APUMC members will likely find new church homes.”
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