In the 1960s, long before the age of the megachurch, Macon’s Vineville Presbyterian was packing its pews.
The church had 600 members on its rolls, and on most Sunday mornings about 400 of them showed up to worship. But as the historic neighborhood became more integrated, membership at the all-white church began to dwindle.
Today, the century-old church will worship for the final time, at least under the name Vineville Presbyterian.
With its membership down to below 50, the church voted last month to dissolve. The building will be used by the Central Georgia Presbytery as a mission to reach out to minorities and, eventually, be “replanted” as a multicultural church.
“It’s a great neighborhood to become multicultural,” said the Rev. Tom Anderson, associate pastor at First Presbyterian in Macon. “The demographics of the area should make it ideal for that.”
Anderson will assume interim pastor duties at Vineville when it begins worshipping under the name “Strong Tower Fellowship at Vineville.”
The church was formed in 1904, about the time the Vineville community was annexed into the city of Macon.
With this new move, the hope is to convert “to a church that is for the whole community, not just the congregation,” said Joe Timberlake, an elder and trustee of Vineville Presbyterian Inc., the charitable organization that owns the facilities.
“Our congregation has gotten older and smaller,” Timberlake said. “Church will still be going on there for the community.”
Church members were given the option April 19 to either close and sell the property or dissolve and turn the facilities over for use by the Presbyterian Church of America and the Central Georgia Presbytery, which Anderson said has been looking to plant more African-American and bicultural churches.
“We see this as an important thing to do in this day and time,” said Anderson. “We want to become a multicultural — black, white and brown — church.”
Vineville Presbyterian’s members, he said, “should be commended.
“They’re giving up a whole lot to make that possible.”
The church will continue to hold Sunday morning services, but it will suspend Sunday School classes, Anderson said. In the fall, the church will become host to an after-school program for Campus Clubs, a Christian outreach for inner-city youths.
Macon Campus Clubs Executive Director Tony Lowden also will play an active role in the church planting.
The effort should give a boost to surrounding areas, such as the Pleasant Hill neighborhood, that Lowden said “are being forgotten.”
“We’re taking on a very unique venture where we’ll have a Campus Club site and a church working together to save a community,” he said.
The after-school program will allow Campus Clubs “the opportunity to minister to 500 to 1,000 kids during the week,” he said.
“We plan on putting in the best after-school program that this city has ever seen.”
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.