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Summit Street church still growing and giving
Mary Powell enjoys the music and fellowship during a recent service at St. Paul United Methodist Church. - photo by Tom Reed

Nestled among the small houses between Summit and Hunter streets in the Fair Street neighborhood of Gainesville stands St. Paul United Methodist Church.

Founded on Feb. 26, 1876 in a house on what is now Bradford Street, the church and its congregation have survived and thrived in the face of adversity.

Since most of the members lived in the Summit Street area, the church was relocated to that neighborhood on a parcel of land donated by Nelson Jackson, one of the founders of the church. Before the first building was finished, it was destroyed by a storm.

After the church was completed, it affiliated with the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church under the Rev. C. W. Arnold and adopted the name St. Paul.

The tornado of 1903 demolished the original building and members rebuilt the church with bricks. The church continued to grow afterward and became part of the United Methodist Church in 1968.

In 1983, the old structure was heavily damaged by a fire. In addition to the repairs, an education wing was added to the church with consecration services on July 3, 1988.

The church welcomed its first female pastor in 1999 when the Rev. Renea Slater presided over the congregation. The current pastor is the Rev. Dr. Clarence Thrower Jr.

The church, with about 250 active members, continues to help the community with numerous outreach programs, such as the weekly Hot Soup and Warm Coats program for homeless people, and several youth programs.

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