|Riverdale First United Methodist Church began in
the 1830's as Happy Hill Church. Meetings were held in a small cabin
located on College Park-Riverdale Road about three miles north of the present
church property. The cabin doubled as a school and courthouse. A
Methodist circuit-riding preacher by the name of John Snooty served the first
church. The little cabin was destroyed when General Sherman swept through
Georgia during the Civil War.|
Some former Happy Hill
members began rebuilding the church in 1882 on property adjoining our present
cemetery. The members purchased 1 3/4 acres of land and another 1/2 acre
was donated. The church now known as Pleasant Grove Methodist and with a
membership of 25 began holding services as soon as the church was "hulled in."
Most of the materials were donated, and since the labor was all volunteer it
took approximately 10 years to complete the project.
The first Church Conference for Pleasant Grove
Methodist was held in 1889. The church was part of a four church Charge
served by students from Emory School of Theology. The minister at this
time was I.G. Parks. It was not until 1924 that the charge could support a
full0time minister. Riverdale was still a small farming community and the
county population was 9,000.
By 1950 the county population had grown to 23,000.
In 1953 the church membership was up to 140 and the first full-time minister was
appointed. Five years later membership had grown to 223 with 153 in Sunday
School and 55 attending Youth Fellowship. It was during this year that the
name of the church was changed to Riverdale First Methodist Church.
The church received a donation of land to increase the
size of the cemetery and a donation of 7.5 acres across the street for the
construction of a new church. In September of 1960, the members decided to
build the first of five units in a star-shaped master plan. The
groundbreaking ceremony took place on Easter 1963 and the church moved across
the street on its current site in 1964. In 1967 the decision was made to
proceed with the second building, a Fellowship Hall with classrooms, a
general-purpose room and kitchen.
In 1976 the church membership began growing in line
with the community. The church realized the need for expanded facilities.
A building committee was formed in 1980 to develop a plan for a larger Family
Life Center with the classrooms, a church parlor, and an auditorium gymnasium
combination. Ground breaking was held on October 2, 1982 and the new
building was occupied in 1983.
In June 2002 the Reverend George P. Lanier was
appointed as the first African-American pastor. The congregation went
through three exoduses of membership change and transition. The church is
here today rebounding with growth and ministry as a testament to the Spirit of
Riverdale First UMC has become a renewed church with a
growing congregation. It continues its mission of making disciples of
Riverdale First is a diverse congregation with many
cultures. The average age today is 42 and it is a growing membership of
young adult families with children.
Riverdale First is transforming from a church declining
in membership into a vibrant mission-minded church with a renewed purpose to
evangelize and serve the community. It has transformed from a church that
had grown inward and away from the local community. It has evolved into an
open door church ready to serve the Southern Crescent of Metro-Atlanta and the
growing metro region.