The History of Cascade United Methodist Church


The history of Cascade United Methodist Church is much bigger than a single congregation and covers more than 200 years of time. It actually goes back to the year 1735 when two brothers, John and Charles Wesley came from England to America and worked in Savannah, Georgia as missionaries. From this simple beginning, other missionaries continued to come to the colonies and established churches. And on December 24, 1784 at the Christmas Conference meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, the Methodist Episcopal Church was officially organized.

Cascade is part of the history of thousands of congregations around the world ministering under the umbrella of the United Methodist Church and the Lordship of Christ. We are, therefore, connectional and not autonomous.

What follows is a history of one part of a larger family that we call Cascade.

The Early Years

The History of Cascade United Methodist Church

In the fall of 1926, some 18 or 20 people met one evening in the home of Mrs. G.F. Jones, 1454 Beecher Street, intent on organizing a Methodist church in the Cascade community. This group accomplished its purpose and the first service of Cascade Methodist Episcopal Church South was held on October 3, 1926, in a store building on Beecher Street near Cascade Avenue. Dr. W. T. Hunnicutt, was the presiding elder.

The new church had grown to 120 members by December 1, and the first pastor, Reverend S. A. F. Wagner led the congregation in erecting the first church structure on Richland Road, April 1, 1927.

On September 2, 1936, Mr. H.T. Pullen and Dr. G.H. Stegar gave to the church the adjoining lot on Richland Road and Cascade Avenue, thereby making the property big enough to build a larger and more permanent facility. The new building would face Cascade Avenue.

In 1939, we became the Cascade Methodist Church brought about as a result of the merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church (North), the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church. That same year, Reverend W. T. Hunnicutt was assigned as pastor of Cascade.

Seeing the crowded conditions and the need for more space in all departments of the church, Reverend Hunnicutt launched a movement to start work on a new building. On May 20, 1940, however, a fire heavily damaged the church. The congregation met temporarily in the E.L. Connally Elementary School. On May 1, 1941, work began on the basement and upon its completion, worship services were held there. In December 1941, work on the new sanctuary was suspended because of the scarcity of building materials due to World War II.

The Reverend J. J. Sneed was appointed pastor in 1942. During the war years, Reverend Sneed constantly kept before the membership a mental picture of the completed structure, which had so long been the dream for the people of Cascade Methodist Church. The steel and other building materials needed for the new sanctuary were restricted until February 10, 1947. At that time, the building program was started again. The new sanctuary was completed at a cost of approximately $125,000.00 with a seating capacity of 425 and the first service was held in it on July 4, 1948. In 1952, Reverend L. F. VanLandingham was assigned as pastor. During the post-war years, the church grew rapidly and in six years the indebtedness on the sanctuary was liquidated. On December 26, 1954, Bishop Arthur J. Moore dedicated the sanctuary. By this time there was an acute need for additional facilities for the Sunday school. Planning began for the new church school building adjoining the sanctuary. On January 15, 1956, the new church school building was completed and ready for occupancy. Included in this building project was an air conditioning system for the sanctuary.

Just two years later on the night of January 23, 1958, an explosion of a hot water heater caused major damage to both the sanctuary and the new educational building. During the months of rebuilding, services were held in the E.L. Connally Elementary School. Repairs to the explosion amounted to $60,000.00. (Note: The stained glass windows that adorn the sanctuary today, at 875 Cascade Avenue, were blown out of their frames to the ground without breaking.)

The Reverend Ralph C. Shea was appointed pastor in 1959. The congregation worked to pay off the indebtedness on the Sunday school building. In December 1962, the debt was liquidated. During the first year of Reverend Shea’s pastorate, a new church parsonage located at 1415 Pollard Drive was purchased.

In 1963, Reverend Charles T. Gray was assigned as pastor and served the people at Cascade with his love for God and his dedication to God’s work. Two houses were purchased on Richland Road. One was used to house staff and the other was used for youth activities. In January 1967, a lay witness mission was held and from this experience, there came a spiritual renewal in the lives of many people. In 1968 at the General Conference in Dallas, Texas, the Methodist Church was united with the Evangelical United Brethren Church becoming the United Methodist Church.

The Mid-Years

Reverend William B. Ridgeway became the fourteenth pastor to serve Cascade church in 1968. On September 15, 1968, a house at 887 Cascade Avenue was purchased. This house was adjacent to the sanctuary and, thereby, increased the size of the church property at the corner of Cascade Avenue and Richland Road. The youth activities were moved to this location and the remaining Richland Road site was then used as rental property. In 1970, the process of racial transition started with the family of Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Allen.

In 1971, Reverend Charles B. Walls became our fifteenth pastor. He served us well with much love and dedication to the work of God. Our people were moving away and our congregation began to get smaller. The two houses on Richland Road were sold and a part of the educational building was rented to the Board of Education for two years to help us through some dark, discouraging days at Cascade. The few who were left kept the faith and kept praying for strength to carry on with God’s work.

Reverend Marcus Booker became our sixteenth pastor. Reverend Booker served us well and in the spring of 1974; we had a very successful stewardship campaign. We were able to revise our church membership roll and that helped us to know just where we stood. Our spirits were lifted and we had renewed hope to carry on the work of God’s kingdom.

In 1974, Reverend Walter L. Kimbrough, a dynamic, young, minister with proven expertise in transitional church ministry was appointed to Cascade as our seventeenth pastor. Cascade soon outgrew found it necessary to hold two morning worship services and to install television monitors in order to accommodate a growing membership. The ministries expanded a range unequalled not only in Atlanta, but in the nation.

In 1986, Reverend Joseph E. Lowery became our eighteenth pastor. The church continued to grow in membership and in ministry. Cascade has once again outgrown her building finding it necessary to seek larger facilities for worship and ministry. With the capable leadership of Reverend Lowery, Cascade launched a major building project– the “cathedral” on Cascade (at 3144 Cascade Road, S.W. and Childress Drive), which was a projected $4 million structure, to house the current 2600 members of Cascade United Methodist Church. The groundbreaking ceremony for the “cathedral” was held on Saturday, September 29, 1990.

During Reverend Lowery’s pastorate, more than 1,000 members joined the church. Before his retirement in June, 1992, 10 acres of land at Cascade Road and Childress Drive had been purchased and paid for, a preliminary architectural design completed, and with the contract signed to sell the edifice to The Chapel of Christian Love Missionary Baptist Church, approximately $1 million was on hand towards the construction of the “cathedral”.

Following Reverend Lowery’s retirement, Reverend Walter L. Kimbrough was reassigned to Cascade in June 1992 – the nineteenth pastor and the last worship services at the 875 Cascade Avenue site were held October 4, 1992 on the 66th Anniversary of the church. The following Sunday (October 11), our first worship service was held at the West End Seventh Day Adventist Church, where 10:00 a.m. service was held each Sunday during the building/transition period.

Cascade was the first predominately Black United Methodist church to build a structure of such magnitude since the merger of the Georgia and North Georgia Conferences in 1971. The commencement of worship and ministries in our “cathedral” began with our Entrance Day Celebration, Sunday, April 17, 1994, and our Consecration Sunday, April 24, 1994 with Bishop J. Lloyd Knox as the celebrant.

During the mid-1980s the church established scholarships and incentive awards to be given to Cascade’s high school graduating seniors with high overall Grade Point Averages. The first Annual Cascade Scholarship and Incentive Award were given in the summer of 1984 and consisted of a $1,000.00 scholarship and a $500.00 incentive award.

The Older Adults Ministry was organized to provide opportunities for spiritual growth, nurturing, physical enrichment and Christian fellowship for older members of Cascade. The ministry was renamed the “Torch Bearers” in 1999. The Torch Bearers are men and women 55 years and older who are energetic, enthusiastic and willing to share their knowledge, wisdom, and God given talents.

On July 16, 1995, the leaders of Cascade United Methodist Church and Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church prepared a Covenant engaging the two congregations to come together and build a partnership to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On June 2, 1996, our two congregations worshipped at Glenn celebrating our Covenant. Together, Cascade and Glenn Memorial have completed several homes for the Habitat Project.

Cascade began its Prison Ministry in 1996 through with Women’s Metro Prison. The ministry began with quarterly visits to the prison for the Sunday evening worship hour.

Karen G. Lowery became Cascade’s first full-time Director of Music on February 24, 1997. Through her leadership, some of the most-talented, highly-skilled, and well-respected musicians in the Atlanta religious community have been assembled as Cascade’s music staff. Some of the highlights of the Music Ministry have been Gospel Jazz services, concerts featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Cathedral Choir featuring the Christmas musical “Glory”; Cascade Under the Stars featuring many well-known gospel recording artists, and much more.

The Cascade Youth Banking Center was founded in 1997 by Good Choices, Incorporated in partnership with Bank of America. The program was developed to afford children and youth of all economic strata access to the means of asset accumulation. In the first four years of the program, there was nearly $300,000.00 in deposit.

After feeding 300 women and children in September 1998, A PLACE AT THE CORNER OF PEACHTREE AND PINE STREETS became the focus of the Cascade Homeless Ministry. Clean up and painting took place every other Saturday in December 1998. In 1999, because of the overflow of homeless people, A PLACE AT THE CORNER OF PEACHTREE AND PINE STREETS became a men’s shelter. The Cascade Homeless Ministry, through the Cascade Outreach Department, continues to support the Peachtree and Pine Shelter with Bible study, worship services, monthly medical examinations, hair cuts, food service and more.

In June 2006, the Reverend Dr. Marvin A. Moss was assigned to Cascade as our twentieth pastor. Under his leadership, our worship experience, organization, ministries and membership continued to grow, and our light in the community continued to shine. Rev. Moss oversaw the retirement of the debt on the Camp Creek Boulevard property, rendering Cascade debt-free with clear title to all of properties entrusted to us. Under him, and in partnership with our sister church, Glenn Memorial UMC, we completed the building of our 21st Habitat for Humanity home.

In June, 2014, Pastor Lawrence Young became the twenty-first pastor assigned to Cascade. Throughout his tenure, Pastor Young focused on kingdom building, increased youth participation in worship; effective communication, collaboration, cooperation; and making Cascade a vessel for ministry and service.

Present and Beyond

Reverend Dr. Kevin R. Murriel serves as the twenty-second pastor of Cascade UMC focused on expanding Cascade’s community impact and empowering the church’s ministries, members, and visitors to be both social justice minded and spiritually concious, extending the light of Cascade and the light of Christ through the city, state, nation, and world.

To God be the Glory!

Cascade’s Senior Pastors (1926-Present)

Rev. S. A. F. Wagner 1926-1928
Rev. C. A. Norton 1928-1930
Rev. J. D. Swagerty 1930-1932
Rev. A. G. Shankle 1932-1933
Rev. Y. A. Oliver 1933-1937
Rev. H. Dillard 1937-1938
Rev. J. Copeland 1938-1939
Rev. W. T. Hunnicutt 1939-1942
Rev. J. J. Sneed 1942-1950
Rev. E. C. Wilson 1950-1952
Rev. L. F. VanLandingham 1952-1959
Rev. Ralph C. Shea 1959-1963
Rev. Charles T. Gray 1963-1968
Rev. William R. Ridgeway 1968-1971
Rev. Charles B. Walls 1971-1973
Rev. Marcus A. Booker 1973-1974
Rev. Walter L. Kimbrough 1974-1986
Rev. Joseph E. Lowery 1986-1992
Rev. Walter L. Kimbrough 1992-2006
Rev. Dr. Marvin A. Moss 2006-2014
Rev. Lawrence L. Young 2014-2017
Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Murriel 2017-Present