Centenary History


(A Systematic Narrative of Past Events)

John Wesley
John Wesley founder of Methodism

The history of Centenary United Methodist Church is replete with many opportunities for growth, professional accountability and new perspectives for nurturing and support.

Methodism was established in America in 1764 with the arrival of several migrating Methodist ministers. Phillip Embury was one of them and he established the first Methodist Meeting House which is now the Johns Street United Methodist Church in New York City. When John Wesley, founder of Methodism, became cognizant that the movement was in progress in the colonies, he sent ministers from England to assist the American clergymen. The denomination spread as America grew, and in 1826 the First Methodist Church was established in Memphis.

When the Civil War ended, many Blacks were left homeless by the holocaust. They literally "poured" into Memphis seeking a better life for themselves. The Freedman's Bureau sent a Rev. Hawkins and other Caucasian teachers to open a school; thus, the school and the church began simultaneously in 1865 on Raburn Avenue, now Third Street. Since Methodism in American was one hundred years old at the time, we became a part of the Centenarian movement in Methodism. To celebrate the fact, we were christened 'Centenary", like all Methodist churches founded that year.

Just after Centenary's organization, some communicants influenced by the perceptive ideas of Richard Allen, felt they did not want to remain in a body under the supervision of Caucasians. At this time, it was agreed that those who wished to remain Centenarians would move. Our next edifice was on South Street, which is now Calhoun. Rev. Hawkins continued as Centenary's minister and the Methodists who remained at the Raburn property formed what is now St. Andrews A.M.E. Church.

We recall the names of a few of those few Centenarians:

The Phiphers, the Jim Lewis', the Oglesbys, Mrs. Alice Kirk, the B. R. Moores, Mrs. Pearl Raynor, Madame Young, Madame Burchett, the Loves, the Borders, the Leveretts, Palmer Wiley, Mrs. Sarah Cox, Mrs. Memory Bishop, the Bratchers, the Ratcliffes, the Leonards, the Childs, Mr. Ivory and son, the Haileys, Mrs. Pettibone, J.A.Q. Williams and others.

Since its inception, Centenary has occupied the following sites:

1865 - Established under Rev. Hawkins at Rayburn Street, now Third Avenue.

1866 - Under Rev. Hawkins' leadership, moved to South Avenue, which is now Calhoun Street. First frame building here. Rev. Hawkins established the first school for Blacks at Centenary. Children attended day classes, and the adults attended night classes.

1888 -Second frame building on Calhoun Street during the pastorate of Rev. Charles Sewell.

1887 - Brick structure on Calhoun property, Rev. H. W. Keys, Minister.

1913 - Purchase of Mississippi Street property, Rev. Chavis Minister.

1921 - Basement church at the Mississippi site completed under Dr. E. J. Cox at a cost of $22,488.88.

1937 - Sanctuary completed at the Mississippi property, Rev. H. B. Gibson, Minister.

1967 - Moved to present McLemore Avenue property, Rev. James M. Lawson, Minister.

1984 - Mortgage cleared on the McLemore property and Mississippi property settled, Rev. Dogan Williams, Minister.

1989 - First Bus Fund started with an endowment left by Mrs. Mamie Phamphlet and purchased under the pastorate of Rev. Gary J. Wilson.