In 1853, the seed of Methodism was firmly planted in Ocean Springs by a Methodist circuit rider named James Sampey. The first meetings were probably held in members’ homes where seven people banded together to worship. The membership grew quickly. By 1871, the Methodists in Ocean Springs requested that a regular church be established in their community. Through the generosity, love, and hard work of its members and friends, the first Methodist Church was dedicated on March 17, 1872. The wooden structure was located on the northwest corner of Porter Street and Rayburn Avenue. Methodist Bishop John Keener preached the dedication sermon and contributed three hundred dollars toward the cost of this first church building. Although never an official member of the Ocean Springs church, Bishop Keener provided a significant influence on this church until his death in 1905. (A stained glass window in his memory can be viewed in the present sanctuary at the downtown campus.)
The church struggled through the 1870’s and early 1880’s. There were pastoral difficulties; however, strong faith and leadership held the young church together. During the 1890’s, Bishop Keener offered the church two lots to construct a new sanctuary. In September 1890, the new church (known as Keener’s Chapel) was dedicated at the corner of Rayburn Avenue and Porter Street (the site of present-day St. Paul United Methodist Church downtown campus). Keener’s Chapel was a simple, one-room white-washed wooden structure. Sunday School was held in different areas of the sanctuary until the first Sunday School rooms were added to the back of the church through a generous donation from Mrs. Elizabeth Stuart, the first member on the rolls of the Ocean Springs Methodist Church.
The church continued its growth through World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. By the end of World War II, the Ocean Springs Methodist Church was recognized as a Station church, which was further acknowledgement of the growth, strength, and importance of this church in the community.
Since the end of World War II, the Ocean Springs Methodist Church has continued to grow both physically and spiritually. The post-World War II baby boom and economic growth had expanded church membership to more than 1300 members as the 20th Century drew to a close.
Now, as we cross into the second decade of the new millennium, we are blessed with two vibrant facilities on either end of the city. From both our Downtown Campus and our East Campus, we are called forth to meet, know, and serve Jesus Christ through life-transforming worship, study, and service.
A larger sanctuary, fellowship hall, and Sunday School classrooms were added in 1955, 1962, and 1981 to keep up with the expanding membership. Properties adjoining the church were purchased.
In 1998, on September 13, a called Church Conference voted to purchase seventeen acres of land at the corner of Highways 57 and 90 at a total cost of $725,000 to provide an option for future growth. Due to the great outpouring of financial backing from its members, the note was paid off twenty-eight months later; and in May, 2001, the church voted to begin Phase I of the East Campus. This phase consisted of building a gym, outdoor sports fields for baseball and soccer, a full service kitchen, a small-service kitchen for the youth, Sunday School classrooms for adults, youth and elementary ages, a fellowship hall, and a youth gathering area.
The 28,000-square-feet facility was built at a cost of $3.2 million on time and on budget. Groundbreaking was in November, 2001, and dedication on Mother’s Day, 2003.
Future plans call for Phase II (a formal sanctuary and additional education space) and Phase III (a pre-school).
Hurricane Katrina's impact in August, 2005, slowed progress on the phased planning, but the current multi-purpose structure on the East Campus has served the community well in post-Katrina by providing a staging area for CORE and UMCORE relief efforts. The impact these groups made on our residents in need was immeasurable. Many Jackson County homeowners can attest to the blessing and the true living witness the relief workers provided. This program existed through 2007.
In recent years St. Paul established ministries to pour into and support our community. Our Backpack Buddies Ministry partners with our local schools and exists to provide families experiencing food insecurity with food each week. In 2014 we launched our Living Well Ministry, which exists to connect those in need with resources that help meet their spiritual and physical needs.
Today, we are blessed with two vibrant facilities on either end of the city. From both our Downtown Campus and our East Camps, we are called forth to meet, know, and serve Jesus Christ through life-transforming worship, study, and service."