Church History

The Apostolic truth was first preached during the mid-1940’s in Gainesville in a small rented building in Southeast Gainesville. As the congregation grew and the desire to have a building of its own, property was purchased on NE 23rd Avenue and a small frame building was built.

Rev. Lark Hughes from Michigan was the pastor at that location. Segregation was real in the South during this period and because a few blacks attended church there from time to time, written threats were posted on the door of the church. Dissention grew among the congregation because of the differences in culture between people from the north and from the south. Rev. Hughes resigned, the church divided, and the property was sold.

Rev. George Duplissy who pastored a church in Miami, FL, was aware of the need for a church in Gainesville and made contact with Mac Barber, who was one of the few male members of the congregation. He came to Gainesville and they scouted for property. Property at 800 NW 39th Avenue was purchased; however, before Rev. Duplissy could assist with seeing the building completed, he suddenly died of a heart attack. The congregation was left in limbo. Mac Barber used his house as collateral to get a loan with which to build the building, and the members did a lot of the labor themselves – even the women helped pour lentils, mix concrete, etc. NW 39th Avenue was just a dirt road when the church was built and only ran between NW 6th Street and 13th Street. Later the road was expanded and paved and became a main thoroughfare through that part of Gainesville.

While the congregation was small, God was blessing in many ways and people were added to the church. The first pastor at this location was Rev. Cole, followed by a short stint by Clayton Davis. R. O. Varnum became the pastor and the church grew during this period. He resigned and Rev. C. W. Teston from Milton, FL became the pastor in 1956. He also served as the Presbyter for the District. A large addition to the building was made during his tenure (Sunday School rooms, fellowship hall, living quarters, additional restrooms).

The church was not large enough to totally support his family, so he worked a full-time job during his pastorate. While many churches struggle with lack of musicians, Gainesville UPC has always been blessed with an abundance of people gifted in music. There were always several pianists, accordion players, guitar players, organists, etc. There was a large group of young people at the church and Gainesville became known as a giving church, winning Sheaves for Christ awards nearly every year. The young people worked hard to earn money for Sheaves for Christ – picking up and selling soda bottles; scouting for scrap metal and selling it; selling rags to paint stores; selling peanut brittle and chicken dinners, car washes, etc.

In those early days, there would be 12-20 young people from Gainesville UPC attend Youth Camp in Ocala. About nine years later, Rev. James McElhaney became the pastor. Once again, improvements were made to the property and additional property was purchased on both sides of the original property.

Rev. Allan Oggs followed Rev. McElhaney and was assisted by Bro. Fuller (who now serves at UPC Headquarters.) Rev. J. W. Arnold became the pastor in 1981. Significant improvements were made to the building, additional property was purchased adjacent to the original property for parking, and the congregation grew considerably to its current size of approximately 500 members. Property was purchased on NW 23 Avenue, and the current facility was built.

[Thanks to Sharon Papciak for providing the Church history.]