“How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning; To list to the clear ringing bell; Its tones so sweetly are calling, Oh, come to the church in the vale.” As early as 1803, Lorenzo Dow, a fiery Methodist, came to preach in the rowdy, river-port town of Bayou Sara, where heavy flatboats, cargo barges and steamboats traveled the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans, making Bayou Sara a very important river port. The magnificent bell of our church started ringing in the spring of 1844 when a Methodist Church was established on Sun Street in Bayou Sara.
That first Methodist Church was fortunate enough to escape bombardment by Federal gunboats on the Mississippi River during the Civil War. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South located in Bayou Sara was organized under the Mississippi conference in 1844.
Eventually a series of fires and floods destroyed the buildings in Bayou Sara, and the coming of the railroad changed the transportation mode from river to rail causing its residents to seek safety and convenience on higher ground. The town gradually moved to the bluff of St. Francisville where in 1896 construction was begun on a new Methodist church located next door to the Market Hall at the end of Royal Street.
In 1894, the church became a part of the Baton Rouge District of the Louisiana Conference. The new building was completed in 1899, housing the bell brought from the original church in Bayou Sara. Methodist Episcopal Church, South is the name designed in the stained-glass window located on the front of the bell tower.
Again the safety of the church building was threatened; this time the threat was erosion of the bluff on which it was located. In late 1948 the building, with its turn-of-the-century stained-glass windows and its 1844 bell, was moved to its present location on Royal Street in the historic district of St. Francisville.
In 1959 a parsonage was built next door to the church, and is now used for a nursery and day care center. The church became a United Methodist Church in 1968. As the membership increased, the old buildings needed updating and enlarging. A new fellowship hall was completed, along with the remodeling of the educational building in 1983.
Then in 1990 the church purchased the adjacent Robb House which was built in 1895 as a pharmacy with living quarters upstairs. The stately old building now houses the church administrative offices and Sunday school classes. The educational building was again enlarged in 2004 to meet the ever growing needs of the church.
In 2007, additional property was purchased on Highway 61 to provide space for expanding the ministry of the church. The home on the property has been used as a second parsonage for an associate pastor and is the site of many church events.
In late 2014, a Sanctuary Restoration began with the purpose of restoring the interior of the church building on Royal Street to its pre-1970’s state. Beautiful wood floors and a bead board ceiling were exposed and restored.
If you listen closely to the old bells sweet sound that has been so ringing in our “valley” for over one hundred and fifty years, you just might hear echoes from the past. They’ll be God’s own family in Christ, from the first person who joined Him in 1844 to the youngest of our babies today, receiving and witnessing the old, old story of a God who loves His people. And the old magnificent bell of our church continues to call God’s own people home to congregate, celebrate, worship, receive the sacraments and faithfully serve.