Founded in 1877, the Paces Ferry United Methodist Church (PFUMC) is one of the oldest churches in Buckhead. On October 21 the church’s lay minister Steve Unti announced his retirement after 18 years leading the congregation. The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church has opted to close the church altogether on December 30 instead of searching for a new minister.
In an email sent to the congregation announcing the closure, Unti cited the “shifting paradigm of the church and pastoral succession” as his reason for leaving. Though the church is financially stable, a lack of leadership and declining membership has contributed to this decision.
The adjoining cemetery, named Pleasant Hill, dates back to 1896. According to the historical marker on site the one acre lot was initially donated by William Brown, a Confederate soldier and local celebrity of sorts, on the 29th of September in 1877 for the purposes of establishing a church. Years later, Brown was interred in the cemetery alongside a number of soldiers from the civil war. FindAGrave reports that there are at least 95 graves on site, though many are unmarked.
Not only has the church provided a place to worship for more than a century, it also was briefly the home of a Pleasant Hill Private Academy run by teacher Ida Williams who later went on to establish the Buckhead Library. Though members of the community, congregation, and neighborhood have all been voicing their concerns about the fate of this property, the church is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places or otherwise historically protected. However, the plot’s smaller size, cemetery, and zoning for single family residential mean that any future development changes are unlikely.
While the future is uncertain for the building, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has come forward and stated their support for the church’s revamp in the future. Ideas for uses that celebrate the building’s history and keep it open to the public have been circulating online, such as the possibility that a new minister might begin a new congregation there. As of now, the future for this historic community church is yet to be determined.