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The Full Story

Our History

Following Emancipation, a small band of ardent Christians held cottage meetings to worship the Lord.  Among this group were John Bridges, Richard Bigham, Berl Davis and several others. Initially the   meetings were held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Bridges of Bush Mountain (a section in the West End of Atlanta).

In 1874, under the latticed branches of a brush arbor, this faithful and devout band of Christians was organized into a more formal and compact church group by their first pastor, the Reverend John Crolley). Rev. Crolley, an ex-slave, was age 29 at the time. He served as pastor for nine years, from 1874 until 1883.

As the group continued to meet in a one-room house and later moved to a two-room house, the years that followed ushered in new ideas and challenges and a need for expansion for this growing congregation. 

In 1883, Reverend M. M. Alston was appointed Warren’s second pastor.  Rev Alston served from 1883 to 1895.  During his administration Christian leaders emerged to promote the ideas and teachings of Methodism.  The church moved to a small frame building at the corner of Humphries and Chapel Streets.  The church became known as Chapel Street Church.  In later years the name was changed to Warren Chapel Church in honor of Bishop Henry White Warren, the Methodist Episcopal Bishop who took residence in Atlanta in 1831.

In 1890 Samuel Cunningham, a student at Clark University, organized Warren’s first Sunday school.  He served as superintendent for 42 years until 1932.  He was succeeded by his son, Wendell Cunningham, who served until his passing in the 1950s.

One of the most dynamic leaders of the church was Reverend Elijah Henry Oliver (1906-1920), the son-in-law of the church’s first pastor (Rev. Crolley).  Due to Reverend Oliver’s unusual qualities of leadership, winning personality, and speaking ability the church’s membership increased to approximately 1,400 members, before his death in 1920. With the growing membership during the tenure of Rev. Oliver, the church moved to a larger, modern edifice on Greensferry Avenue.  Dedication exercises for the new church were held on April 19, 1914.  Unfortunately, the church was partially destroyed by fire on December 2, 1929.  However, Reverend S. M. Miller (1927-1930) and the church leaders were able to restore and remodel the church with the fire insurance funds.

During the administration of Reverend E. M. Hurley (1930-1938) a house behind the church on Mildred Street was purchased and remodeled as a parsonage.Following Rev. Hurley’s pastorate, the Reverend E. G. McLeod was appointed and served (1938-1939). He was succeeded by Reverend M. W. Clair (1939-1940).

The year 1939 marked a turning point in Methodism.  According to The Book of Discipline the United Methodist Church was born.  In order to guide and organize the Warren Church in this plan of union, Reverend J. Wesley Thomas (1940-1948) was transferred from Philadelphia to the Atlanta Conference to pastor Warren Church.  During this period, the church building on Greensferry was sold to Clark College for its move from South Atlanta to the Atlanta University Center.  A committee was selected to find a new location for the church.  They finally found the present location (the old Driskell home) at the corner of Ashby Street and Ashby Grove, S. W. (now known as 181 Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, S. W,)

Once again, a new church building was erected with a new name The Warren Memorial United Methodist Church.   Under the administration of Reverend Thomas, the building was completed and dedicated in 1942.

During the administration of Reverend E. W. McMillan (1948-1958), one of the most memorable events was the installation and dedication service (1953) for the beautiful stained-glass windows.  A sacrament altar and new pews were installed, and the Gospel Choir was organized. 

Under Reverend C. S. Stinson (1958-1966), notable contributions were the establishment of the Quiet Room in the balcony of the church, early morning worship service, the Children’s Choir, and office space for the church secretary.

Warren has always provided a place of sanctuary for the educational institutions in the Atlanta University Center. On March 10, 1961 Warren provided a place for the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and other leaders of the Black Community, including his father “Daddy King” and the head of the local NAACP, the Rev. Samuel Williams, to meet with the Student Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Over 1000 persons were in attendance.

The next pastor of Warren following Rev. Stinson was Rev. A. C. Epps (1966 to 1972). During his term the parsonage was converted into an educational building, new Methodist Hymnals were purchased, central heat and air conditioning was installed, and Warren purchased a Life Membership in the NAACP. 

In July 1972, Reverend P. Harold Gray (1972-1980), was installed as the twenty-fifth pastor of Warren. Since that time eight additional pastors have been installed at Warren:

During the administration of Reverend J. D. Grier (1980-1985) the physical plant was completely renovated, a new grand piano was purchased, and, with assistance and guidance of the late David Stills, a state of the art pipe organ was installed.

Reverend Wimbley Hale, Jr. was pastor of Warren from 1985-1995.  Under his leadership Warren both purchased and replaced its first church van. In recognition of the Church’s 112th Anniversary, an historical quilt was created and placed in a display case in the Annex. Reverend Hale also reinstated the church planning retreats. The Warren Memorial Methodist Annual Scholarship Awards program was reactivated.

In June 1995 the Reverend Richard D. Winn, Sr. (1995-2006) was appointed Senior Pastor of Warren.

In June 2006, the Reverend Yvette D. Massey (2006 – 2010) became the first female Senior Pastor of Warren Memorial United Methodist Church.  She brought to the assignment a very impressive Christian background. Rev. Massey focused, among other things, on reconnecting with the local Community. The Community Outreach Dinners were established and continue today.

In November 2010 Reverend Donald K. Reed, Sr. (2010 - 2016) was installed as Senior Pastor of Warren. As Reverend Reed arrived the culture, the community, and the people were changing. However, the need for Jesus and the mission of the church remains unchanged. In response, Reverend Reed re-established the church’s relationship with the Atlanta University Center. Seminarians from Gammon Theological Seminary and the local colleges were incorporated into the worship service.

In the past four years, Warren has been led by three new Pastors:  Rev. Gigi Warren (2016 -2017), Rev.  Lawrence Young {2017 -2018}, and our current Pastor, Rev. Leon Matthews (2018 – to date).

The ministry of Rev. Matthews has been challenged by the current pandemic brought on by the Corona virus and the closing of the church’s physical structure. This has led to Warren’s first virtual church services. Notwithstanding the closing of the church building, Warren continues to support our local community by providing a site for covid-19 testing and the distribution of brown bag meals and food boxes.


Making Disciples of Jesus Christ through
Leadership, Worship and Service


A Beacon of Hope and Enlightenment Through
Spiritual Growth and Christian Values

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