Who We Are
Orange United Methodist Church’s vision is to be a biblically rooted family of Jesus’ disciples, living in grace, learning in community, and loving through service.
Our Heritage and History
Before 1832, Methodists in Orange County worshiped at New Hope Presbyterian Church. In 1832, a small group of Methodists gathered under a cluster of grapevines near the location of today’s Orange United Methodist Church Sanctuary in northern Chapel Hill. At that time, the site was farmland located a long 3 mile journey from the town of Chapel Hill. Tradition holds that that event marked the formal beginning of a Methodist Church in Orange County. Naming the church “Orange” was appropriate because it soon found itself woven into the community’s fabric.
Alexander Gattis, Sr. and Thomas King, two of the church’s founders, each donated two acres of land. In its first 4 years, the small congregation met in houses and in the Davis School that was located near the present day site of Blue Cross Blue Shield in NE Chapel Hill. The congregation built, and lost to a fire, a log cabin for its use during that period between 1832 and 1836. In 1836, members built a one-room frame church building. Sam Gattis was the choir director. Reflective of small country churches at that time, the choir was made up mostly of Gattis family members.
Alexander Gattis, Jr. became the first Orange Church member to enter the ministry. He died at age 41 in 1859 and was the first person buried in the church cemetery. Orange has the only church cemetery in Chapel Hill. A few family names seen repeatedly in stone in the cemetery reflect the deep generational roots of many saints who have been cornerstones in the survival and growth of Orange Church. The cemetery also has graves of slaves as well as those of University of North Carolina students and others who died during the 1918 flu epidemic.
A one-room school was built just northeast of the church at its property line in the late 1800’s. School administrators named it Orange Church School. Although no relationship existed between the school and church, the name reflected the close link between Orange Church and the community.
For nearly a century, church members met in their one-room frame building. A circuit-riding preacher would fill the pulpit, weather permitting. Otherwise, church members served in all worship roles including preaching. By 1924, one preacher served both Carrboro and Orange Methodist churches. Nearing the beginning of its second century of existence, Orange Church began to expand.
In 1924, church members helped construct the sanctuary that is in use today. In the beginning, it contained four Sunday school rooms, two in the front and two in the rear. In 1934, church members constructed the log cabin Hut that is still in use just south of the sanctuary. Members donated land, logs and labor to create the desired space for meetings and children’s church. In 1958, members helped construct the church’s first Parsonage, on Homestead Road west of the church, on land donated by the Link family.
With members’ help again, in 1965, the church constructed an Education building next to the Sanctuary. The following year, Orange was able to afford and thus received its first full-time Pastor, John Pascal, who remained there for 6 years. The Sanctuary was given a steeple and a porch in 1971. During the 1970’s, through donations of acreage from the Freeland family, the church’s property grew to 8+ acres.
In the 1950’s and through the early 1960’s, the congregation made continued efforts to bring in new people to membership. They visited nearby residences, many of which were occupied by students of the University, and knocked on doors to make invitations to come to Orange. For fund-raising at that time, one constant was the work of the women of the church in preparing suppers and selling meals to the community. In the early 1970’s, while Rev. Pascal served, the church “stopped feeding half of Chapel Hill on a regular basis” according to the official church history book. In place of so many fund-raising activities, the Pastor urged members to concentrate their efforts on one major event each year. That event became the annual Harvest Festival , and this tradition continued for 45 years.
Church growth continued through the 1970’s and 1980’s, with average worship attendance increasing from 100 to 230. In 1984, Orange embarked on a new and very important mission, one that still serves the surrounding community, when the church started the Pre-School program.
Stepping out courageously in faith in 1989, Orange combined pledges and borrowed funds to have the present Fellowship Hall building constructed. That provided much needed space for Sunday school, nursery, church office, a much larger kitchen, and the Hall itself with a capacity of 250+ people.
Members and visitors regularly come not only from all over Orange County but also from the neighboring counties of Durham, Chatham, and Alamance. The church’s property that began with 4 acres around a cluster of grapevines nearly two centuries before had expanded to a lovely 17 acres. To continue to grow in ministry, the church again stepped out in faith to hire contractors in 2011. That time it was to begin the first phase of its town-approved campus-wide master plan. A four-fold expansion of available parking plus the construction of a second Hut was begun for the purpose of drawing more members to this congregation and its ministries of welcoming, proclaiming, nurturing, encouraging, serving and sending.
Orange UMC was founded to be an integral part of the Orange County community. Situated on what now is a prominent site along the main north-south thoroughfare in Chapel Hill, it serves as a beacon of Jesus Christ’s love, recognized as such in the local community, and has been blessed to see its ministries reach well beyond Orange County to people in distant countries. Going forward, it prayerfully seeks to Gather, Grow, and Go to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
At OrangeUMC, our goal is to welcome all without exception. In Jesus Christ, God has and continues to invite each person into relationship with himself. When we accept Christ’s invitation, God welcomes us with open arms. Scripture even teaches us that God is like a father who runs out to welcome His lost child home and even throws a party! (Luke 15:11-32)
As a church, we are committed to providing the same joyful welcome to each person at OrangeUMC, regardless of where you came from or how long you’ve been searching. Everyone can expect a friendly, warm, genuine, and enthusiastic greeting; a handshake, smile, hug, or even the “fist bump of fellowship.” We provide radical hospitality that makes people feel at home, comfortable, and like a part of the family.
Our welcoming is not limited to Sunday worship services. It includes welcoming people to Bible studies, youth group, committee meetings every opportunity. While we give special attention to welcoming newcomers, regular attenders and old-timers can also expect a warm welcome. Our welcoming cannot be contained! It spills out into the parking lot, the neighborhood, and beyond!
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28)
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
God has entrusted our church with Good News to share. We proclaim a message of grace,God’s unconditional, unearned, and undeserved love for all. Grace is the message of acceptance, forgiveness, and healing. It’s the promise of God’s plans and purpose for your life. We also proclaim truth God’s will and Kingdom, his law and sovereignty, our responsibility to be holy, and our call to justice and righteousness.
We proclaim God’s message in worship through praise, prayer, preaching, sacraments, and other responses. We also proclaim it through Bible studies, Sunday school classes and missional communities. Teachers, mentors, and leaders are vital, and so are groups that embody this message. Proclamation is the responsibility of the Church, but each disciple of Jesus Christ bears responsibility, too. We are all called to be Jesus’ witnesses, and the message is for all people, including our family and friends, church and community, and our country and world. It’s for those near to and far from God. Everyone needs the Good News.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)
We all need encouragement to believe and to take the next step in our relationship with Jesus, whatever that may be, and we are an encouraging church. Of course, OrangeUMC encourages all to believe in Jesus Christ, to have faith, to trust Him, to believe that He died to save you from sin and death. We encourage one another to accept his invitation to be forgiven, born again, and to become like Him. We encourage one another to continue striving to know Jesus more and more, to take those next steps.
Encouragement can help us act with confidence, boldness, and assurance; to serve, use our gifts, show up, give generously, be involved, and fully engaged. Encouragement comes in lots of ways through sermons, teachers, classes or small groups, prayer or even conversations with a friend. It can come through words of affirmation, compliments, and support, and it can come with words of accountability and challenge. The presence of others encourages us. Whether things are going well or not, we all need encouragement. Peter needed it to take the next step, and so do we.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
At Orange UMC, we provide nurturing for each person’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Our goal is that each person grows to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). We are nurturing as we care for, support, and serve one another; as we welcome, accept, and include; as we invest in each other’s lives; and as watch over, protect, and build each other up.
Nurture happens best in relationships – with friends, family, and fellow disciples. While it can happen almost anywhere, nurturing happens best in smaller gatherings of disciples. In these more intimate settings, words of affirmation, encouragement, and accountability can be spoken, joys and concerns can be shared, prayers can be offered for one another, and we can get to know each other as we play and work together.
We plan carefully and intentionally to make sure all people of ages are provided sufficient opportunities to grow in Christ: educational opportunities, worship experiences, affinity groups, ministry teams and more. We highly value the role of prayer and Bible study in nurturing our growth in Christ.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
To serve is to work for God, be employed by God, help accomplish God’s purposes, and contribute to advancing His will and Kingdom. Serving is basically to do everything for Jesus, and it requires obedience of God’s commands and putting others first.
We strive to serve all people: family and friends, church and community, and strangers and those in need (the hungry, lonely, sick, etc.). We serve at church, as we worship, work on committees, go on mission trips, teach classes, sing in the choir, and participate. But we also serve at home, at work, and everywhere we go.
There are many forms of serving, but our service is based on stewardship the understanding that everything we have belongs to God – our time, talents, and treasures – and is to be used to serve God’s purposes. Even our money is entrusted to us for serving God, and God equips each person to serve in meaningful ways. We want to provide opportunities and empowerment for each person to serve meaningfully.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Colossians 3:17)
“…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28)
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. I (Corinthians 12:5)
We believe Jesus is still sending disciples today. At OrangeUMC we believe He sends us to welcome, proclaim, encourage, nurture, and serve others. Disciples are not saved to sit; we are meant to be sent! We aren’t created to stay in our comfort zone; we are called to GO into the zone of the unknown.
Jesus sends us to the hungry, homeless, prisoners, sick, hurting, strangers, broken-hearted, and the marginalized; to the least, last, and the lost; and to those who don’t know him. We go to share Jesus and His love through word and deed. Jesus may send us to Africa and other far off places, but He also sends us to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, or even family members.
With our location in a university town, sometimes people are with OrangeUMC just for a season. We encourage and nurture them, too, so they may be sent to another place of ministry when they leave Orange. No matter where we are sent, though, we trust Jesus to be with us and His Spirit to lead us.
“Go! I am sending you out…” (Luke 10:3)
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19)
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.“ (Acts 1:8)