Oconee Street UMC has had an interesting and vital ministry in the Athens community since its beginning in 1871 with 16 members to the present membership of just over 150.
In its early years, a Sunday School class was held in the afternoon and the building was then located on Oconee St. near Broad St. on the other side of the Oconee River.
In 1882 John Wesley Brown organized a Sunday school on the east side of the Oconee River, and this class soon became associated with the Oconee Street church, as was another Sunday school class, located in the Baldwin Street community. In a special meeting of its quarterly conference, December 8, 1902, the three Sunday school classes were consolidated.
In 1903, during the ministry of the Rev. M. H. Cakes, the old church building was moved to its present location at the corner of Oconee and Poplar Streets, and a parsonage home across from the church was purchased to house the pastor and family.
Beginning in 1920, and continuing until the present, many improvements have been made to the buildings and grounds. During the summer of 1910, when the Rev. A. F. Nunn was the pastor, the Stone-Nicholson Sunday school rooms were built into the balcony section of the church sanctuary.
In March, 1968, during the pastorate of Rev. C. L. Harris, and under the leadership of Harry Kirk, building chairperson, a much needed new educational building was added, consisting of nine classrooms, nursery, church office and pastor’s study, music room, fellowship hall and restrooms.
In 1975 the church approved a plan for upgrading and remodeling the church and in 1979 completed the renovation of the sanctuary.
In 1980, Oconee Street welcomed the Rev. Carolyn Morris as pastor, making it the first church in the Athens-Elberton District to receive a woman as pastor.
In 1989, Oconee Street affirmed its commitment to mission by joining with Athens Urban Ministry to open the city’s first noon kitchen, Our Daily Bread, under the direction of Rev. Ted Staton, who served as both pastor of Oconee Street UMC and director of Our Daily Bread.
The Rev. Lisa Caine became pastor in 2001. The church’s commitment to mission is demonstrated in many other ways both to the community and the world at large. In 2004 the church completed the requirements to become a Church of Excellence in Outreach in the North Georgia Annual Conference.
On April 15, 2013, a fire destroyed the 110-year old sanctuary and
severely damaged the education building. After a brief stint at Young Harris United Methodist Church, the congregation held services in the chapel of Tuckston United Methodist Church.
One year after the fire, the congregation returned to its location, holding services in the newly-renovated education building.
A new worship building and sanctuary was completed in summer 2015, and the newly-constructed church was dedicated on Aug. 30, 2015. After 15 years of service, Caine retired in June 2016.
Over the past few years, the Oconee Street UMC has been influential on issues of racial justice, immigration and LGBTQ+ equality. The Rev. Laura Patterson was named pastor in July 2020.