While there are many houses of worship in the city of Georgetown, some standout for their long history in shaping not only their congregations but the city itself. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of those churches.
BETHEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
401 Broad Street, Georgetown | 843-546-4898 | www.facebook.com/bethel.church1
Sunday Church School 9 a.m., Worship Service, 7:30 and 10 a.m.
Built in 1882, Bethel AME Church is home of the first separate African-American congregation in Georgetown County. The congregation was founded in 1865 near the end of the Civil War from the Duncan United Methodist Church, which had licensed Augustus T. Carr to preach.
Carr was born a slave but purchased freedom for himself and his family. Before the Civil War, he ran a livery stable in Georgetown. After the war, Carr and his followers — some estimates put it at 3,000 — joined the burgeoning African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Carr later served at AME churches in Charleston and became the presiding elder over the Edisto District of the South Carolina Conference. The current sanctuary was built in 1882 and remodeled in 1908. In 1980, the church’s original wooden façade was bricked over.
DUNCAN MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
901 Highmarket Street, Georgetown | 843-546-5647 | www.duncanumcsc.com
Services are held at 11 a.m. on Sundays. The church also offers Sunday School at 10 a.m. and a children’s program at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church is the oldest Methodist church in South Carolina. The church traces its origin to Bishop Francis Asbury’s visit to Georgetown in February 1785.
This was just two months after the famous Christmas Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland, during Christmas Week 1784. Bishop Asbury, accompanied by Woolman Hickson, Jesse Lee and Henry Willis, said of their arrival, “We crossed Lynches Creek, Black Mingo and the Black River and arrived in Georgetown, where we were met with a kind reception.”
Then when Asbury’s group headed for Charleston, Woolman Hickson was left in Georgetown with William Wayne, the first Methodist convert in Georgetown. This dates the congregation as the oldest Methodist Church in South Carolina formed by Francis Asbury.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
219 Cleland Street | Georgetown | 843-546-5187 | https://www.fbcgeorgetown.org
Sunday meeting times: Sunday School, 9 a.m.; worship, 10:15 a.m. and 6 p.m.
First Baptist Church of Georgetown traces a long and tumultuous history back nearly 300 years. It begins with the migration of William Screven from England to Maine and then to South Carolina during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Screven established the First Baptist Church in Charleston in the 1690s before moving to Georgetown in 1710. His son, Elisha, laid out the town in 1734 and helped found an interdenominational meeting house on the Black River, where the Baptists worshipped until a proper edifice was constructed in Georgetown: the Antipedo Baptist Church, named for the congregation’s opposition to infant baptism.
Three of the most recognized figures in Southern Baptist history—Oliver Hart, Richard Furman and Edmond Botsford—played vital roles in keeping the Georgetown church alive through the American Revolution. The 19th century was particularly trying for the Georgetown Baptists, and the church came very close to shutting its doors on several occasions.
For most of the 19th century, a majority of church members were African-American slaves or former slaves.
Following World War II, Georgetown experienced a large growth in population, as did the church’s congregation.
PRINCE GEORGE WINYAH CHURCH
301 Screven Street, Georgetown | 843-546-4358 | www.pgwinyah.com
Services are on Sundays at 8 and 10 a.m.
The Parish of Prince George, Winyah, was formed in 1721 from St. James, Santee, Parish. It was named for England’s Prince George, who would later become King George II. The first building was on a bend in the Black River about 12 miles north of where Georgetown is now situated.
As the rice planters became more numerous along the coast and the anticipated port of entry came closer to reality, the parish divided in 1734. The original church fell within the newly established bounds of Prince Frederick’s Parish, so commissioners were appointed to build a new church for Prince George Winyah Parish.
Bricks were collected as early as 1740 and the first rector, sent by the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign parts, held the initial service in Prince George on August 16, 1747.
The church was completed in 1755 and was incorporated in 1788. It was desecrated both during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. A gallery and the chancel were added around 1809 when repairs were made after the Revolution. The steeple was added in 1824. The box pews in the church were customary in colonial churches. Since there was no heating system available, pew owners frequently brought charcoal burners to their pews in cold weather and the box pews retained the heat.
The stained-glass window behind the altar is English stained glass, originally in St. Mary’s Chapel at Hagley Plantation on the Waccamaw River – a chapel that had been built by Plowden C.J. Weston for his slaves.
SAINT MARY’S OUR LADY OF RANSOM CATHOLIC CHURCH
317 Broad Street, Georgetown | 843-546-7416 | www.stmaryourladyofransom.com
Mass is held on Saturdays at 5 p.m.; Sundays at 8 and 10 a.m., and at 1 p.m. in Spanish; Mondays at 5:30 p.m.; Tuesdays at 8 a.m.; Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.; and Thursdays at 8 a.m. Confession is on Saturdays from 4:15 – 4:45 p.m. or by appointment (English and Spanish).
With the increased demand for the sacraments from area Catholics, Father Charles D. Wood was assigned to serve Georgetown in 1898, but he could visit only during the week since he had other duties connected to the Cathedral. Father Wood found that Catholics wanted to build a church. He thus made an appointment with Bishop H.P. Northrop, who granted his approval. The lot on the corner of Broad and Highmarket streets was purchased.
A special groundbreaking ceremony took place on October 10, 1899. Father Wood said the first Sunday Mass in Georgetown in more than 30 years on October 29, 1899. The cornerstone for the new church was blessed on Thanksgiving Day, 1899. The church was officially dedicated on January 5, 1902, by Bishop H. P. Northrop.
TEMPLE BETH ELOHIM
230 Screven Street, Georgetown | 843-325-0389 | www.templebethelohim.net
Sabbath services begin at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays. Following services, the congregation recites the blessings over the challah and wine.
Temple Beth Elohim of Georgetown was established in 1904 when the Jews of Georgetown, who were worshiping in peoples’ homes and at the Winyah Indigo Society, formalized their congregation by becoming the sister temple to Charleston’s Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. Over the years, the congregation has represented a diverse population, with many of the members settling in Georgetown and surrounding areas from around the country.
Although proportionally only 10 percent of the white population, Jews held a disproportionately large role in civic life. Before the beginning of the 20th century, there had been five Jewish mayors of the city: Solomon Cohen, Abraham Myers, Aaron Lopez, Solomon Cohen Jr. and Louis Ehrich. In the 20th century, Sylvan Rosen was the sixth Jewish mayor of Georgetown. His brother, Meyer Rosen, practiced law in an office on Screven Street.
Over time, many of the children of these families grew up and moved away, leaving a declining Jewish population. Five faithful members of the founding families, affectionately called the “Elders,” were Rita Fogel, Alwyn Goldstein, Philip Schneider, Myer Rosen and Debbie Abrams. There is now a temple community of 43 families who are involved in the congregation.