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Posted: September 10, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Allen Memorial celebrates sanctuary centennial

Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Oxford celebrates its centennial on Sunday.

Bishop Michael Watson of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church will be the guest preacher. Dr. Steven Bowen, dean of Oxford College, will also be there.

Situated on the campus of Oxford College, Allen Memorial has been misunderstood at times. "Some people in town see it as a college church, and some people at the college view it as a community church," said the church pastor, the Rev. Brian Dale. "But in fact, we serve both communities, and both the students and the local residents enjoy the interaction."

Over the years, the sanctuary has been the center of worship life for many Newton County residents and Oxford College students. Students often return here to reminisce and some hold their wedding ceremonies there.

The church is a special place for Deborah Lee, a 2008 graduate of Oxford College.

"When I was stressed with school work and other challenges in life, I was surrounded by loving people and the Spirit of God which gave me courage and strength," she said. "I miss being able to worship there every week but it will always be a place where I met God every week."

As befits its place on campus, many of the church’s ministries involve education. It is a meeting place for several Girl Scout troops and plays host to Newton Reads, which offers classes in adult literacy and GED tutoring. Prevent Child Abuse Newton meets there often to promote better parenting for at-risk families. The church also offers instruction in computer skills and has a computer lab which is open to the community. Bible study classes are available year round.

The building, owned by Emory College (now Emory University), was dedicated June 5, 1910, by Bishop Warren A. Candler. Although the Methodist Church in Oxford was established and had flourished since 1838, the congregation moved from the "Old Church" on Wesley Street to the new building in 1910 and became known as Allen Memorial Methodist Church.

The church is named after Young J. Allen, the first Methodist missionary to China. Allen was born in Burke County, Ga., in 1836 and attended and graduated from Emory College in 1858. He was a powerful influence among the students, and he led a revival on the college campus which was said to have led to the founding of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (now United Methodist Women) in Oxford. After graduation, Allen sold his property and left for China, where he worked as a missionary and educator until his death in 1907.

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