Sitting in the choir loft one Sunday I was mesmerized by the sunlight shining through the stained-glass windows. An artist’s pallet of colors — blues, greens, reds, and yellows illuminating various congregation members. I watched as they glowed with the reflected light. My gaze returned to the choir, and I smiled as a choir member began to glow. I said a prayer that the light shining on them would strengthen them against the day’s trouble.
One hundred years ago this same light was shining in a different location, but it was just as bright. After months of meetings, it all came down to this one night. Many prayers were shared among this group of 19 people before the final decision was made. These Christian “soldiers” were ready for a Methodist church to be established in this community of Buckhead.
On Saturday night, April 28, 1925, each person pledged to God to let His light shine through them. You could feel the excitement and the apprehension. Some of the five men wore cautious faces but their excitement was visible in their twinkling eyes. Of the 14 ladies in the room, the take-charge volunteer spirit was strong. If the strength of this group had been represented with instruments, it would have been an entire orchestra. They were nervous, but more than that they were determined. They were driven. They were passionate. God’s word would be shared in this new Methodist church.
Jimmy and Mollie Respess, two of the 19, talked about the changes happening in Atlanta. Mayor Walter Sims just signed a five-year lease on an old, abandoned auto racetrack (The Atlanta Speedway) and committed Atlanta to develop it into an airfield that would be named Candler Field/Atlanta Municipal Airport (which would later be Hartsfield International). The small community of Buckhead was changing each day and it was time to make the vision a reality. Mollie and Jimmy agreed their group had prepared well. Research was complete, plans made, financing set up and land purchased. A Methodist church in the country would make church available to many. A name was decided on: Peachtree Road Methodist Church.
Atlanta grew, Buckhead grew, and Peachtree Road Methodist Church grew. Along with this growth, Mollie and Jimmy happily watched their eldest son’s family grow. Son Jimmy married Barbara Anne Calvert on June 7, 1942, in our new church building – The Great Hall. The Great Hall (now Heritage Hall) was our sanctuary, our kitchen, our fellowship hall and even our gym. Our light continued to shine brightly.
Standing on Peachtree Road in the fall of 1949, watching the crane erect the iron steeple onto our soon-to-be completed Sanctuary was a day of celebration. The Atlanta Constitution came and took pictures. Church members, visitors, businesspeople from all around stopped to watch as Bob Calvert directed his crew from Calvert Iron Works to carefully install our steeple onto our new Sanctuary; our “Light on Peachtree.” On the top of this steeple, a beautiful lighted cross would shine down in the darkness, sharing the light of Christ with Buckhead.
Of the 11 children of Barbara and Jimmy, I am their eighth child. Mollie and Jimmy Respess (Sr.) are my paternal grandparents. Anne and Bob Calvert are my maternal grandparents. Yes, this is my home church, my church that I dearly love.
Many years ago in my four-year-old Preschool class, my teacher Mrs. Phillips, brought our class into the Sanctuary. We were told to be very quiet because we were entering God’s house. A small group of us were taken up to the altar and I remember the awe I felt standing at the foot of the cross – a four-year-old little girl standing at the altar of the church. This was sacred ground.
Today, I still stand in awe from the choir loft. A different location but the feeling is the same. All of these people gather together each Sunday to praise God. There are so many who feel the dedication, the devotion, and the passion for our church.
I’m asked why the Centennial and the archives of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church are so important to me. Now you know why. Through research, I have learned the first Historical Committee established at Peachtree Road Methodist Church was chaired by my grandfather, Mr. James L. Respess, Sr.
And now you are creating your legacy at Peachtree Road. Your history. With your prayers, your gifts, your talents, your service and your witness, this church will continue to be a light on Peachtree.
The light, then and now, is the people in the church. Nineteen individuals saw the need, had the vision and a strong faith to begin what we have today. Their light continues to shine through each of us. We are learning of our church’s history, and we are learning from our church history. It is our turn to become a part of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church’s history.
If I had not come to that morning service, I might not have experienced the colorful light dancing through the sanctuary. However, I see God’s light in the greetings, hugs, laughter and even tears of our congregation. Whatever service I attend, whatever event brings me to the church, I see the light of God in the faces of many, but also in the stillness. God’s light shines throughout our church. Just listen… just look… and always pray. When I was a child, Mama sang me a song that I use today as my guide – “This little light of mine...I’m gonna let it shine.”
We hope you will enjoy reading and sharing PeachtreeRoadStorybook.org.
Your story is Our story is God’s story. Let your light shine.
PRUMC Archives/Centennial Chair
Eve Respess is the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church Centennial Committee Chair and church archivist. Her paternal and maternal grandparents were founding members of Peachtree Road, and Eve is dedicated to preserving not only their legacy, but the legacy of all church members.
Eve sees a light and a story in everyone who touches our church. If you would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.