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Methodist Episcopal Church, Greenville, NC

April 12, 2017

The telltale clerestory windows would have bathed the children’s central assembly area in light, with the individual break-out spaces radiating outward from it. From this humble beginning, Greenville’s UMC has grown to occupy three quarters of a block and the Sunday school seen here has been engulfed by three times that amount of space for religious education. Indeed there is a new sanctuary at the diagonally opposite corner, which may mean the original has been shifted to “chapel” status.

This more modest complex was dedicated in 1907 and was fully understood as a progressive step for the congregation:

The new church’s design would be influenced by the so-called “Akron plan” churches of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Akron Plan churches were conceived with the main auditorium or sanctuary being encircled by or adjacent to Sunday School classrooms with sliding doors. These rooms were usually situated above the main floor sometimes even on the gallery level, and often the floor was tiered. Thus, when the sliding doors were left open, the classroom could be used for overflow sanctuary seating. The new church would have a sanctuary seating capacity of 300 plus overflow seating for about 400 (see photo for plan view with overflow seating in use) . There were many other innovations including a large choir loft, multiple parapets, and a fine electro-pneumatic organ.

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