Saturday, May 20, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 21

Methodists Organize in Bastrop, Spring, 1833

(presented without comment)

Source:   In The Shadow Of The Lost Pine

Bastrop Methodist Church
Oldest In Southwest Texas
By Lucy R. Maynard
(Oct. 14, 1952)
   In studying the early cultural activities of people living at this place on the Colorado River, we read:
   “A party was usually an all-night affair since it was dangerous for the guests to return to their homes after dark. Mrs. Josiah Wilbarger Chambers recalled one such celebration which she said took place in Bastrop in the early 1830’s. A priest from San Antonio mission came to perform religious ceremonies for twenty-five couples who had been married by common contract. The wedding and the subsequent celebration took place in a two-story house in the southern part of the town which was a combination dance hall, courthouse and meeting house. After the ceremony, a feast was spread and the settlers made merry until daylight.”
   In 1832, James Gilliland moved to a place on the Colorado thirteen miles below Austin and built Moore’s Fort, about where Webberville is now. Gilliland was a Methodist exhorter and though not a licensed preacher, spent his free time riding bout the countryside gathering people together for religious services, and we read:
   “This lay preaching of Gilliland took him to the little settlement of Bastrop one Sunday morning in the spring of 1833. A meeting was held in the incomplete storehouse of Jesse Holderman. Planks were placed on boxes or kegs for seats and a barrel was used as a pulpit. On that memorable Sunday morning the first Methodist Church within the bounds of what is now our Conference was organized. The white people, Mr. and Mrs. C. Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Boyce, Mr. and Mrs. Delaplane, Mr. and Mrs. Brisband, Mrs. Sara McGehee, Mrs. Christian, and one Negro woman, Cecelia Craft, who belonged to Mrs. Samuel Craft, of Craft’s Prairie, became the charter members.”
   One account says that the brother of Mrs. Harriet Taylor (daughter of Samuel Craft of Craft’s Prairie) arrived home one Saturday saying that church services were to be held the next day in Bastrop. Mrs. Taylor and her brother rode in on horseback to the meeting. However, their names do not appear on the roster. Cecilia Craft was probably the maid who accompanied Mrs. Taylor.
   How often this group held services we do not know, because at that time, Protestant religious services were illegal and strictly forbidden. The Roman Catholic Church was the only religion permitted by the Mexican Government.

-transcription by Kate Maynard, 2012

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 14

Congregation Beth Israel Honors Bishop Martin,  May 17, 1968

The recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Texas is truly disturbing.  Methodists, and other people of faith should denounce such incidents in every way they can.  It is a good time to recall the cordial relations that have marked Jewish-Methodist relations in Texas.   

First Methodist Church Houston hosted Brotherhood Dinners during the middle decades of the 20th century specifically to combat anti-Jewish sentiments of the Ku Klux Klan and other nativist groups. 

Houston was not the only city where Jewish-Methodist relations flourished.  Rabbi Levi Olan (1903-1983) of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas (1949-1970) lectured at Perkins School of Theology and had an office in Bridwell Library.  Many of Rabbi Olan's materials can be accessed on line from Bridwell's site.

On May 17, 1968 Congregation Beth Israel in Houston dedicated its evening service to Bishop Paul E. Martin.  The Chief Rabbi of the congregation, Dr. Hyman Judah Schachtel, presided at the services. 

A resolution of love and appreciation for Bishop Martin was presented that said in part, 

Be it resolved that the Sabbath evening service of the oldest Jewish Congregation in the state of Texas, Congregation Beth Israel, on May 17, 1968, honor the bishop by presenting this resolution  and by expressing the prayer that God will bless him with many more healthy years of life and meaningful service; and be it further resolved  that a copy of it be entered into the archives of our historic congregation.. . .

Dr. Schachtel (1907-1990) became Senior Rabbi of Beth Israel in 1943 and served in that position to 1975.   He developed a close friendship with Bishop Martin’s predecessor Bishop A. Frank Smith.  He became nationally known when he delivered a prayer at President Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration in January 1965. 
In addition to serving on a variety of community boards and non-profit agencies, Schachtel was famous as an author.  His works include The Real Enjoyment of Living (1954), The Life You Want to Live (1956), The Shadowed Valley ((1962), and How to Meet the Challenge of Life and Death (1980).  He also wrote a column for the Jewish Herald Voice and had a weekly radio program.   He received an honorary doctorate from Southwestern University in 1955.

 Mrs. Schachtel, the former Barbara Levin, was director of the Quality Assurance for the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the Houston Methodist Hospital. 

Dr. Schachtel is often remembered for his aphorism, “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   May 7

1866 General Conference Meets in New Orleans.  Important Changes for Texas  May 1866

Few Methodist General Conferences have been as consequential as the one that met in New Orleans during the first weeks of 1866.  There had been no 1862 General Conference of the MECS so there was much work to do.

Delegates dropped participation in a class meeting as a requirement for church membership and voted to allow lay delegates to conference.  Delegates doubled the number of active bishops from four to eight.  (Bishops Soule and Andrew were still alive but no longer traveled to hold annual conferences.)  One of those newly elected bishops was Enoch Marvin, the first bishop who had served a church in Texas. 

The General Conference divided the both the Texas Conference and the East Texas Conference into northern and southern portions, and created the North West Conference from the northern counties of the Texas Conference and the Trinity (later North Texas) Conference from the East Texas Conference.  It also changed the Rio Grande Mission Conference, making it the West Texas Conference (later South West Texas and later Rio Texas). 

German speaking Methodists in Texas asked for help from the General Conference, but it could offer little more than kind words.  Many of the German preachers then turned to the MEC which had greater resources than the MECS and had a vigorous German language publishing enterprise already in place for its German churches in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri. 

The editor of Houston’s Tri-Weekly Telegram in May, 1866 was the Rev. Clayton C. Gillespie, who had served as a colonel for the Confederacy.  Naturally he gave the General Conference extensive coverage.

He reported on the “ordination” service for the newly elected bishops (Marvin, Wightman, Doggett, and McTyeire).  He should have known better.  In Methodist practice, we consecrate bishops.  They are not ordained.  

The honor of preaching the “ordination” sermon went to one of the oldest preachers there---the Rev. Lovick Pierce (1785-1879), father of Bishop George Pierce, and one of the most beloved Methodist preachers ever.  Pierce had been ordained in 1804 so as he stood in the pulpit at the Candorolet Street Methodist Church, he was in his 62nd year of preaching and was attending his 12th General Conference.   His text was 2 Cor. 11:28, . . .I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Lovick Pierce had a right to be anxious.  The Civil War had weakened many MECS churches and all of their institutions, including publishing and missionary efforts.  African Americans were in the process of leaving the MECS for other denominations including the AME, AMEZ, and the MEC.  

Lovick Pierce lived another 13 years after his “ordination” sermon.   Although he was past 80 years old, he had one more major task to perform for his church.  Some MECS leaders assume that since the cause of separation of the northern and southern branches was slavery, and that slavery was abolished, the two branches might re-unite.  Lovick Pierce was chosen as an emissary from the MECS to the MEC to explore reunion.  He was chosen because of his “irenic” disposition and his sterling reputation. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 23

Martin Ruter Writes Nathan Bangs from Texas, April 26, 1838

Probably the last letter Martin Ruter wrote was to Nathan Bangs on April 26, 1838.  His last letter to his wife, Ruth Ruter, in New Albany, Indiana, was written 3 days before.  Nathan Bangs ran the Publishing House in New York City, edited the Advocate, and handled mission correspondence for the Methodist Episcopal Church.  The two men knew each other well.  Ruter had headed the Cincinnati Publishing House from 1820-1828, and they knew each other from General Conference sessions. 

The “last letter” mentions the illness that would kill Ruter within only three weeks from the writing, but also contains a prayer for spiritual welfare of Texans.  Here is the letter.

My health was uniformly good until the first of the present month.  Since that time I have been afflicted with a fever, which I hope is now nearly subdued.  It is supposed to have been produced by fatigue, and by riding too much in the sun.  My travels on horseback have exceeded two thousand miles, and may have been in some instances, too great for my strength.  My object has been to visit as much of the country as practicable, and supply with occasional preaching all the destitute places my time and strength would permit.  And when we consider the change of climate, new state of country and the privations with are unavoidable, it is surprising that my health has been thus far preserved.  It has pleased the great Head of the Church to smile upon our feeble efforts, enabling us to say,  “We know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  Even here, in the land where hostile armies recently met in dreadful conflict, and where the thunders of battle were heard, where we still hear of war and rumors of war, the Prince of Peace is extending his peaceful kingdom.  And let it extend!  O let it spread rapidly here, and in other regions until the angel shall proclaim that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of the Lord

Saturday, April 15, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History April  16

Tragedy Strikes Opening Night of 1968 General Conference, Rev. and Mrs. D. L. Landrum, Jr., Killed in Plane Crash   April 21, 1968

Sunday, April 21, 1968 was the opening of the historic General Conference that would result in the creation of the United Methodist Church through the uniting of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.   Unfortunately as the delegates recessed from the evening session, they learned that a tragic plane crash has killed the Rev. and Mrs. D. L. Landrum, Jr. of First Methodist Wichita, Kansas.  The pastor’s father, D. L. Landrum, Sr., was a delegate to the conference and the District Superintendent of the Palestine District of the Texas Conference. 

The younger Landrum was born in Houston in 1928.  He attended Southwestern University and Perkins School of Theology.  He served pastorates in the Texas Conference including Milano Circuit, Calvert, Joaquin, Brookshire, and in 1958 was appointed to organize a new church in west Houston, Memorial Drive.  That church grew rapidly and soon became one of the largest churches in the conference.  In May 1967 he transferred to First Methodist Wichita. 

Wichita is known for its aviation industry and the large number of private citizens who own airplanes.  One of the church members offered his private plane for D. L. and Betty Landrum to visit friends in Houston for a weekend, and then stop in Dallas to visit other friends at the General Conference.  Their two children, Laura Lee (11) and Lawrence (10) remained in Wichita.   They were only seven miles from Wichita when the plane crashed. 

There were two services.  Bishop McFerrin Stowe led a service at First (now United) Methodist Church in Wichita.  At Memorial Drive UMC Rev. Charles Williams, who had replaced Rev. Landrum, Bishop Stowe, and Bishop Paul Martin conducted another funeral service. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 9

Bishop Paul Martin Participates in Ecumenical Food Aid Project in Galveston,  1966

Surrounded by clouds of grain dust, cranes, and Galveston dock workers, Bishop Paul E. Martin participated with other church leaders in blessing a cargo of 21,000 tons of wheat being shipped to Bombay, India where it would be distributed by Indian churches.  The Rev. Jester White, Galveston District Superintendent, was there along with about 45 Methodist preachers and spouses.  The Rev. Norman Sundwall, director of CROP was there as well as Msgr. Daniel O’Donnell of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Galveston.  Canon Gerald McAlister, President of the Texas Council of Churches was also on the docks that day. 

The wheat was donated by the U. S. government through the AID program, but the transportation and distribution were paid for through Church World Service and Catholic Relief Services.  Bishop Martin and Canon McAlister stood beside a 500 pound sack of wheat, and Bishop Martin said, “Perhaps this is one of the most sacred moments you and I have ever known.”

Saturday, April 01, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 2

Ellen J. Downs Robinson Urges Creation of Woman’s Missionary Society Units

The April 4, 1885, Texas Christian Advocate contains an appeal from the North Texas Conference WMS President, Ellen J. Downs Robinson of Paris.  The WMS was a relatively new organization, having been established in 1880.  Robinson’s goal was to have a chapter “at every appointment on every circuit.” 
“Aunt Rob,” as she was called, was born on Christmas Eve, 1824, in Canada to James and Freedom Rider Downs.  She and her whole family were converted to Methodism and were all baptized on Christmas Day, 1837.  Ellen taught school for about ten years in New York, but then responded to the call for missionary service. 

In October, 1856 she left Champlain, New York, for New York City.  She then travelled to New Orleans were she was met by Bishop and Mrs. Kavanaugh.  Then she travelled by steam boat to Shreveport and a smaller boat to Jefferson, Texas, which was the main entryway into northeastern Texas.  She then made her way to Daingerfield, and then north to Bloomfield Academy in the Chickasaw Nation.  Bloomfield Academy had been founded by the Rev. John H. Carr and the Chickasaw Nation in 1852.  It was a female boarding school. 
Funds for the Academy dried up during the Civil War so she moved to Paris, Texas, where she lived the rest of her life—until 1910.

She taught Sunday School for 40 years, was president of the Paris WMS for thirty years and served seven years as President of the North Texas Conference WMS.  She was buried in Old City Cemetery after services at Centenary Methodist Church in Paris.