EAST POINT, Ga. — Hapeville United Methodist Church supports the arts and they aren't afraid to admit it. Like many churches today dealing with dwindling attendance, Hapeville UMC is redesigning their chapel and doing away with traditional pew-style seating but it doesn’t stop there.

Pastor J.R. Atkins sits on one of the newly-refurbished benches in the hallway of the church administrative offices. He wears a warm smile and a black t-shirt with the phrase, ‘Hapeville First UMC Supports the Arts’ emblazoned with white letters across the chest. Here’s what he had to share with My East Point News.

“Art is an expression of our Holy Spirit within us. If we look back into the past, a lot of art was funded by the church. I mean, think of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.”

The roots of the church in Hapeville go back over one-hundred years. However, the church much like many churches has seen attendance numbers falter in recent years. The solution to that was to, in part, move away from the traditional high-density pew-style seating.

Pastor Atkins standing next to refurbished pew
Pastor Atkins standing next to refurbished pew

Atkins goes on to say that while the transition has been met with some resistance, he’s confident that the redesign will encourage renewed or sparked interest in going to church.

The idea for the refurbished pews was spawned from the initiative to start engaging the local community, particularly the artists and pay respects to the pews that have been such an integral part of the church’s history. Atkins has built a relationship with a couple of local artists who are able to handle projects of this size and scope. As it stands right now, anyone looking to own a pew can have one resized to about 4-feet with the original finish or a bleached wood look.

For more information about the Hapeville First UMC, visit their website.

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