Boulevard United Methodist Church
Boulevard United Methodist Church began as a Sunday School in a Confederate chapel in the West End of Richmond in 1916. It was first associated with the Broad Street Methodist Church and then later with the Clay Street Methodist Episcopal Church, South. At this time the church was called Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The congregation laid the cornerstone for the current church in 1919 on property at the edge of the Fan District on the Boulevard. The first service in the new building was held on Sunday December 21 st, 1924. The building and congregation was not yet renamed at this point; It was not until 1925 that renaming the church Boulevard Methodist Church was suggested, and it was another sixteen years before the new name was officially adopted.
The church flourished, and in 1946 Boulevard United Methodist had the largest congregational attendance in the Virginia Conference of the Methodist Church. The 1960s witnessed sweeping civil rights movements throughout the country, and Boulevard officially made their church open to all citizens of all races. In a gesture of respect and progress, their ushers were told to seat any black church-goers near the front of the church. Eight years later, when the national Methodist Church merged with the United Brethren Church to form the modern United Methodist Church, Boulevard officially adopted their current name Boulevard United Methodist Church.
The church building itself is of architectural interest. Designed by William C. West, the large four story building is fronted with four-columned porticos with Ionic limestone columns. Doric pilasters separate the bays of the building on the sides. Inside, the rectangular sanctuary itself can seat up to seven hundred people, with a gallery upstairs on three sides. The positioning of the pulpit and choir follows the liturgical customs of the Methodist Church. The sanctuary underwent major renovation and remodeling in 1966, and in 1989 a new pipe organ was added.
Boulevard also owns the property adjacent to the church. The house, which was originally slated for demolition, was purchased in the mid-twentieth century. The house is used to host a variety of groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, . Additionally, there is a pastoral counseling firm’s offices upstairs.
Although at one point the largest congregation in the conference, Boulevard’s congregational size began decreasing due to the migration of city dwellers to the suburbs, lack of parking, and poor design for the church’s aging congregation. Currently the congregation stands at two hundred fifty people, mainly residing in the Fan District, Powhite, and suburbs of Richmond. The congregation itself is predominantly Caucasian, with a broad range of ages, including a youth group of thirteen regular members and an active, committed elderly population. The congregation ranges from working class to upper middle class. The church is very welcoming in both attitude and action and provides a close knit feeling in their worship services, particularly because of their smaller size.
On Sundays Boulevard United Methodist Church offers a Fellowship Time, followed by Sunday School for all ages and a Worship Service. The service is best described as a mixed service incorporating both traditional worship and more contemporary styles, which has cross-generational appeal. Boulevard United Methodist’s diversity is particularly illustrated by their music choices: the service includes traditional Methodist hymns, contemporary pieces, as well as spirituals. Other music included in the service is the chiming of the hour, provided by handbells purchased in 1977 and music by a praise band. The theology of the church itself is mainline Methodist.
Boulevard United Methodist Church is involved with many missions and community outreach programs. Like many other churches in the Richmond area, the church hosts Congregations Around Richmond Involved To Assure Shelter (CARITAS). In conjunction with Woodlake United Methodist Church, they provide Church Hill House, a government subsidized retirement community in Church Hill. Additionally, Boulevard is active in Virginia Conference-wide missions, such as Nothing But Nets, which provides malaria nets for Africans in association with the National Basketball Association. The church has sent two hundred hymnals to United States Military Chaplains serving in war zones, and the church also supports the United Methodist mission in Mozambique.
Boulevard United Methodist Church
321 North Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia 23220
Thomas Tyler Potterfield Jr. Architectural Analysis of Boulevard Methodist Church.
State Of The Church Report, 2006
Reverend Dr. Dorothy McNeer O’Quinn, Pastor
Profile prepared by Ashley Street