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St. Paul’s United Methodist Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2017 Cohort

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, founded in 1840, is the descendent congregation of one of the earliest Methodist congregations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church by Jade DeLang Hart
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church by Jade DeLang Hart
2017 Cohort

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, founded in 1840, is the descendent congregation of one of the earliest Methodist congregations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Congregants worshiped out of log cabins until they built their first permanent location in 1856. In 1909, the growing congregation commissioned notable architect Louis Sullivan to design a “modern church for a seven-day program.” Sullivan’s design cost twice the allocated budget, leading the congregation to request new drawings and Sullivan to resign in March 1912. St. Paul’s purchased Sullivan’s plans and hired W.C. Jones to redraw them within budget. The resulting Prairie Style building, dedicated in 1914, differed little from Sullivan’s design in its external appearance, but the interior was substantially redesigned. In 1961, St. Paul’s took a stance against racial discrimination by selling surplus church property to Dr. Percy Harris, a Black physician who repeatedly had been denied the opportunity to purchase a home for his family.

Since 2007, St. Paul’s has welcomed an influx of African immigrant families from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Rwanda. It has added worship services in Swahili, Kirundi, and French to its robust programming. St. Paul’s also runs a preschool and its Neighborhood Meal and Enrichment Program. The congregation shares its space with several nonprofit partners and opened its doors as a shelter during Iowa’s devastating 2008 flood. In honor of Dr. Harris, the church also created the annual Who is My Neighbor Award in recognition of individuals who have promoted equality and social justice in the community.

A National Fund grant of $240,500 with over $480,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation allowed St. Paul’s to replace the HVAC system in its historic sanctuary and classrooms in the 1963 wing. This work expanded upon a 2017 building campaign that added a new accessible main entrance, a welcoming center, renovated parking, and new electrical infrastructure. The National Fund work and the earlier building campaign reinforced the congregation’s pride in its building and heritage, and it has now created a task force to propose a plan for displaying its history.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church by Jade DeLang Hart

A Postcard Tour of Historic Houses of Worship

The vast quantity of postcards depicting historic houses of worship is best evidenced through the James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards. The collection of more than 20,000 postcards illuminates the range of religious architecture in the United States from monumental cathedrals to one-room meeting houses. Read more for a postcard tour highlighting the history and significance of select congregations in the National Fund for Sacred Places.

James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez