Aldersgate United Methodist Church
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Aldersgate United Methodist Church Sanctuary


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The Beginning Years

Aldersgate Methodist Church is the first Methodist Church to bear this name in the North Carolina Annual Conference. The church was begun at the 1955 session of the Annual Conference on the recommendation of Dr. W. L. Clegg, Durham District Superintendent and Rev. Thomas A. Collins, Conference Director of Church Extension.

Dr. Henry I. Glass 1882-1968 Founding PastorDr. Henry I. Glass, a distinguished senior pastor of this conference, was appointed to be the first pastor.

Dr. Glass began visiting in the community and searching for a church site. The property, on which there was a building formerly used as a dance hall, was selected as a meeting place, and with help from the Annual Conference Ten Dollar Club formed in 1953 by the Board of Missions, on recommendation of Rev. Collins offered a grant to match funds raised through a solicitation by Dr. Clegg, District Superintendent, from the churches of the Durham District. With these funds the land and building at the corner of Duke Street and Horner Street was purchased with one lot donated by Mr. W. C. Carver, Durham Realtor and active Methodist layman.

The first goals were, of course visitation, for which a religious census was helpful. Dr. Glass and Rev. Tom Collins led in the census taking with the assistance of assigned Duke Divinity students. During this time the conversion of the building was being accomplished with appropriate furnishings and equipment for worship and Sunday School.

The site was outside the city limits which posed problems of access to water and necessitated the digging of a well, 138 feet deep, more than 100 feet of these through solid rock. For the conversion from a dance hall to a church much had to be done: the arrangement of a sanctuary, classrooms, painting and acquiring the necessary furniture and equipment. Durham churches donated some supplies and furnishings, the remainder was purchased.

Formerly Smith's Dance HallThrough a "Tom Sawyer Party", consisting of the District Superintendent and a large number of Durham District Methodist pastors, a substantial part of the painting of the inside was done. Mr. Shaw of Shaw Paint and Paper Company and Mr. Claude May, donated the paint. Men of the Church did much of the remainder of the painting; most of it at night after their day's work had ended.

For the equipment the following gifts were made: Communion Table, Durham Furniture Company; Communion set and Clothes, Mrs. Dolian Harris; Pulpit Chair, Mr. & Mrs. J. W. Chappell; a second Pulpit Chair by Mr., & Mrs. John T. Blalock; Hymn and Church School Report Boards, Mr. & Mrs. E. C. Garrard; Pulpit Desk and Bible, Dr. & Mrs. H. I. Glass. In addition the pastor through personal solicitation among Durham Methodists and personal friends raised a substantial sum.

The Methodist group in the community was not the largest, constituting less than 30%. There was no sponsoring organization and no gifts of members from other Methodist Churches, so building the membership meant winning them one by one. It meant also welding these Methodists with those of several other denominations who chose to unite with us in this task, and molding them into a united fellowship.

Sunday School classes and Sunday Worship began early in the fall of 1955. The first Worship Service was held on October 30, 1955. This was followed a few Sundays later by the organization of the Church School with three divisions, the Children, the youth, and the adults.

On March 6, 1956 the Woman's Society of Christian Service was organized with 16 charter members. During the summer of this first year a Vacation Bible School was held with 41 children and 9 workers enrolled.

On Sunday, January 8, 1956, following morning worship, District Superintendent W. L. Clegg formerly constituted the Church with 32 Charter Members. Among those taking part was Rev. Tom Collins, who brought greetings from the Conference Board of Missions and Bishop Paul Neff Garber. The Mission Board had declared Aldersgate Methodist Church a Ten Dollar Club Church and assisted with a grant of approximately $15,000 in funds for this new congregation to help pay for land and building.

As this is written in 1957, there are 68 members of the Church, 127 in the Church School, 26 members of the WSCS, 17 members of Methodist Men's Club, and 14 members of our Cub Scout Pack. The budget for 1958-59 has been adopted in the amount of $3,518.05 subscribed by our members. Prospects are good for the starting of a Parsonage for the Church at an early date this year.

The organization of this church and the fine service it is rendering has changed the tone of this community. It has provided a means of growth in the Christian Life, and a channel of service for those who compose her membership.

It is not only a field of service; it is an organized force working for Kingdom ends. A finer fellowship, a greater Christian zeal, and a greater willingness to work for the Lord you will rarely ever find. I am certain you may look to the future of this Church with confidence.

Dr. Henry I Glass, Pastor


The Interim Years

Aldersgate Church (about 1956)In 1965, a small sanctuary seating 135 persons, a choir loft seating 12, and 3 small classrooms were built. On March 13, 1966, the first service was held in the new sanctuary. For the next 24 years, the Aldersgate congregation continued to grow under the leadership and guidance of dedicated ministers:


Rev. Bobby Black 1957-1958 Rev. Bill Spears
Rev. Rudy H. Hodge 1967-1969 Rev. Waylon Cooke
Rev. James B. Godwin 1969-1972 Rev. Tom Fulcher
Rev. William C. Simpson 1972-1975
Rev. Ben Potter 1975-1978
Rev. Robert Wallace 1978-1990
Rev. Charles Pollock 1990-1994

It was a church at the crossroads, serving the Durham community with a Christian outreach.

On May 18, 1980, the decision was made to leave the Duke Street and Horton Road building and relocate to a new church building in Northwest Durham County. This decision was a difficult one, but the vision for the future remained the driving force. Thus, on May 28, 1985, in a worship service, the congregation deconsecrated the old building and the building was demolished on June 3, 1985. The members met in the North Carolina Korean Church on Massey Road for one year. The members referred to this time as "our time in the wilderness".

On July 14, 1985, ground was broken for a new church at the corner of Umstead Road and Bivens Road during a morning worship service in the trees. The design and building of the church was created from input from all church members. It was decided that the cross would be the overall theme of the church architecture. Corner of Umstead & Bivens By design, the sanctuary was built on a North-South axis so that the worshiping congregation is facing north, where, on Sunday mornings the sun shines in the window at the rear of the sanctuary casting a shadow of the cross on the floor. Click here to see a guide to the Sanctuary design.

The cathedral ceiling and clear glass windows reflect the congregations desire to be the body of Christ looking outward into the world. This desire to be a people of God ministering to the community is the strength of the congregation.

The building design also brings a part of its past into the present sanctuary. The only stained glass windows in the church are the windows brought from the first sanctuary. These were placed in the former church as a gift from the United Methodist Women.

The large chairs placed at the sanctuary entrance are also from the original church building. To preserve Aldersgate’s tradition, the original small brass baptismal bowl is held within the large baptismal font in the front of the chancel by special design. It is the desire of the congregation to have a designated place for this special bowl, because every Aldersgate baby has been baptized from this small vessel.

The present sanctuary was also designed to reflect the body of Christ that cares for one another in its midst. The pews are angled so that the worshipers can see one another rather than being seated in straight rows.

Aldersgate beautiful sanctuary with suspended crossThe 6 X 9 foot cross with the communion table dominates the chancel area and it is the focal point of the worship center. The large window behind the cross repeats the theme of the cross, and is visible from any point in the sanctuary. The window reminds Aldersgate worshipers of God’s beautiful creation as reflected in the seasons of the year.



This building was consecrated on September 14, 1986 in a service that included preaching, baptism and a service of Holy Communion. The next Sunday, Homecoming, was celebrated as the 30th anniversary of Aldersgate.

The music program enhances the worship and includes the chancel choir, 2 children’s choirs, a youth choir, a handbell choir and a brass ensemble.

The United Methodist Men’s group is active with fund raising activities such as Brunswick stews and the annual Christmas tree sales. The United Methodist Women promote their mission by 4 active circles. They have received recognition on the conference level as a "7 star unit". It is through the tireless efforts of the UMW that Aldersgate is recognized as a Rainbow Covenant Church. The Aldersgate youth groups provide exciting opportunities for middle and high school young people in leadership and Christian service. Aldersgate reaches out into the local community sponsoring a Boy Scout troop, as well as Cub and Brownie Scouts, and a preschool and after school program.

With leadership of dedicated Sunday School teachers, Aldersgate offers classes for all age levels and interests. Four mobile classrooms were erected to accommodate the overflow Sunday School attendance.

The faithful commitment of fellowship and teamwork that existed from the early years continues to ignite and fuel the moving spirit of today. It is a church that is the cornerstone of a caring Christian community and embraces newcomers into its fellowship. Aldersgate is a church that celebrates and witnesses to God’s love with a steadfast vision for the future while building on its rich heritage.


Building God's Vision
1994 - Present

Family Life Center

The Family Life Center was consecrated on February 20, 2000, after many years of discussion, planning, financial campaigns and actual construction. A detailed report covering Aldersgate's recent history from 1994 to the present, including the Building of God's Vision, will soon occupy this space.







This page was last reviewed on: March 22, 2012


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