Charlotte is often called “the city of churches” owing to the more than 700 places of worship that can be found in the city. Little has changed since the first Presbyterian church was established in Charlotte in the 1750s: Charlotteans still dress in their Sunday best to attend services and most businesses are closed or open for limited hours on Sunday.
It’s believed that the first sermon ever preached in Mecklenburg was delivered by a Methodist minister on the campus of Davidson College in 1742. Between 1742 and 1778, membership in Methodist societies in North Carolina quadrupled every two to three years, making the Methodists the largest religious group in the state.
The first Presbyterian churches in the area were the Rocky River Presbyterian Church, which dates back to the 1750s, and the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, which held its first services in 1766. By 1770, six more Presbyterian churches were established in Mecklenburg County.
The first Baptist church in Charlotte was established in 1833. Though the Baptists formed their first congregation later than other major religious groups, their growth was rapid. Today, the Southern Baptists are the largest religious denomination in the state. One of the most well-known Southern Baptists is Billy Graham. Graham was born in Charlotte, which is also the home of the Billy Graham Library.
Charlotte is also home to several important religious organizations. The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church are headquartered in the Queen City; the Cathedral of Saint Patrick serves as the seat of the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte; and both the Reformed Theological Seminary and the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary have campuses in Charlotte.
The number of immigrants to Charlotte, especially from northern cities and Latin America, has led to a marked increase in the number of Roman Catholics and Jews in the city. A growing number of churches have added masses in Spanish to meet the needs of their congregations. Shalom Park in South Charlotte is the hub for the Jewish community in Charlotte, with two synagogues and a thriving community center.
© Jodi Helmer from Moon Charlotte, 1st Edition