Edenton Street United Methodist Church (ESUMC) is the oldest congregation in Raleigh, NC. According to, "Sanctuary: The Rebuilding of Edenton Street United Methodist Church 1956-1958" by church historian Sue McDowell, ESUMC is known as the mother church of Methodism in North Carolina. Located at the corner of Edenton and Dawson Streets in downtown Raleigh since it was organized in 1811, the church marked its bicentennial in 2011. This News & Observer story describes that celebration. Today the church has more than four thousand members.
Poindexter Memorial Building which opened in 1937 as the third Sunday school building on the site, hosts Sunday school classes, staff offices, the nursery, and the Joseph G. Brown Chapel. The current sanctuary (the fourth to stand on this block), was first used in February 1958. Its predecessor was destroyed in the summer of 1956 by a great fire described in a 2011 story in the News & Observer. Curtis Fellowship Center, located on the east side of the complex, was completed in 2002. It includes Kerr Fellowship Hall, a facility which which hosts contemporary worship services on Sunday mornings and which is used frequently for community events.
When the sanctuary was rebuilt in 1957, a M.P. Moller Opus 9054 organ, a 48-rank instrument, was installed. That organ was enlarged to 60 ranks in 1972. In 2007, the Moller organ was replaced by one built by Orgues Letourneau Limitee, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada.
Thirty-four ranks of the former Moller organ are incorporated into the new instrument. Designated Opus #112 by the builder, this instrument ranks as the largest pipe organ in eastern NC and one of the largest in the region. The 98-rank Letourneau organ, which has 5,447 pipes, 101 independent stops and five divisions has been built to accommodate an additional 15 ranks (920 additional pipes) in an Antiphonal/Echo division that will be located in the rear of the sanctuary above the balcony when additional funding for its construction and installation are made available. The Letourneau organ was dedicated on Palm Sunday, March 16, 2008.
The church has a long history of missions outreach. Melville B. Cox, one of the church's first ministers, served as the first Methodist missionary to Africa in 1831. Cox died of illness five months after reaching Liberia in 1833.
ESUMC maintains longstanding relationships with mission work in Liberia and Mexico, and it has sponsored mission projects in the Appalachians, Puerto Rico, France, Jamaica, Spain and elsewhere. After Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999, the church undertook a major multi-year commitment to support eastern North Carolina's recovery.
For generations, the congregation of ESUMC has included many community and state leaders of North Carolina. Notable members have included Gov. Clyde Hoey and U.S Senators Willis Smith and John Edwards. When Sen. Smith died in office in the summer of 1953, his funeral at ESUMC attracted Vice President Richard Nixon, and a pall bearer was Smith aide Jesse Helms. (Helms, himself a member of Hayes Barton Baptist Church, later would serve many terms as North Carolina Senator.)
For many years before they moved from Raleigh to Chapel Hill, NC Senator and 2004 vice presidential hopeful John Edwards and his family were active members of ESUMC. All four children were baptized at ESUMC, and over many years, John Edwards held a number of laity roles. The funeral of Elizabeth Edwards which attracted many state and national leaders was held in the church sanctuary in 2010. The funeral of longtime NCSU basketball coach and ESUMC member Norm Sloan also was held at the church.
Relationship to Wakefield UMC
In 2007, associate pastor Ed New of ESUMC led a successful initiative to start a new Methodist church in North Raleigh - an effort supported by significant financial backing of the ESUMC congregation and hard work by its leaders and staff. The effort resulted in the establishment of a daughter congregation of ESUMC called Wakefield United Methodist Church (WUMC). Wakefield United Methodist Church is wholly independent of ESUMC, yet it maintains close ties with the ESUMC family. WUMC held its initial Sunday services at the Banks Kerr YMCA in Wakefield, but the thriving new church has grown to the point where church leaders are making plans to build its first church facility on Star Road in Wake Forest.
|228 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC|