Community History – Covington – Epworth United Methodist Church (Union M.E. Church)

Community History - Covington - Epworth United Methodist Church

The beginnings of Epworth Methodist Church can be traced back to the year 1877. In that year, several Protestant residents of West Covington met in the home of Charles Taylor on Main Street (now Parkway) to discuss the possibility of holding religious services. Until funds could be raised and a church constructed, the Protestants of the community gathered in the tool shed of Mr. B.H. Hathaway. Sunday school classes were also held in this building.

In 1878, ground was broken on Main Street for a church building. Several prominent Northern Kentuckians participated in the fund drive. William P. Devou donated the stone to construct the foundations for the new house of worship. Amos Shinkle, a wealthy Covington entrepreneur and dedicated Methodist layman, agreed to match all the contributions donated by the members. In this way, enough money was raised to purchase the lot and to build the church. The new frame Gothic Revival church was dedicated on January 30, 1879 with appropriate ceremonies.
Initially, the new Union Protestant Church served all the Protestant residents living in the neighborhood. Differences in theology and worship among the denominations, however, soon led to a group leaving the congregation. The remaining members asked the Methodist Episcopal Church to reorganize the congregation. The name of the congregation was changed to the Union Methodist Episcopal Church and a part-time minister was provided.

The progressive little congregation established a YMCA branch in several rooms located at the rear of the church building. This YMCA was officially dedicated on the evening of October 30, 1902 by the pastor, the Reverend Joseph Gibson. The year 1902 also witnessed the establishment of two educational endeavors at Union M.E. Church. A kindergarten was established that year by the pastor’s sister, Miss Matilda Gibson. Also, an industrial class was established by the ladies of the congregation with the first session being held on April 5, 1902. The teachers of the industrial program included: Mrs. John Bentz, Miss M.E. Gibson, Mrs. J.E. Kelch, Miss Clark, and Miss E. Winald.

The annexation of West Covington to Covington in 1916 resulted in a change of name for Union Methodist Episcopal Church. The City of Covington already had a Union M.E. Church (located at the southwest corner of Greenup and 5th Streets). The Methodist Conference, therefore, requested that the West Covington Church choose a new name. The members of the congregation decided upon the name “Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church.” The name change took effect in 1918.

Epworth grew steadily during the early years of the Twentieth Century. By the 1920s, the need for a new church had become apparent. In August of 1922, a committee was formed to find a suitable site for the construction of a new church edifice. The members of this committee included: Benjamin Wisenall, Edward Chapman, Earl Stickley, Ben Fox, and Harry Jameson. The lack of sufficient funds, and later the Great Depression and World War II, greatly delayed the building project. The new church did not become a reality until the 1950s. The brick Classical Revival structure was ready for occupancy in August 1953. The new building sported four Doric columns and beautiful art glass windows. The new church was built at 1229 Highway Avenue at a cost of $100,000 (the old church on Altamont Street became the home of the Goodwill Lodge No. 936 Free and Accepted Masons).

More recently, Epworth has focused on outreach to the Covington community. In 1999, the congregation’s ladies group began a free store called “Treasures on Earth.” Staffed by volunteers, the store is open on each Saturday of the year. The store provides food, clothing and other items to the needy of the area.

News Enterprise, May 5, 1963, p. 1 and October 6, 1997, p. 1; Kentucky Post, February 22, 1902, p. 5, March 20, 1902, p. 5, March 29, 1902, p. 5, October 30, 1902, p. 7, September 25, 1918, p. 1, August 12, 1922, p. 1, October 8, 1977 and December 25, 1999, p. 2k.

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