Saturday, June 24, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History

 June 25


Instead of the usual post I have decided to share the eulogy I gave at my father's memorial service at First United Methodist Church, Dallas, on June 23, 2017.   This is the manuscript.  Naturally the eulogy as actually delivered varied somewhat from this text.


The family would like to thank you for all the expression of love we have been receiving from so many friends.  Your love and prayers have buoyed us in these difficult times.   Thank you to the choir and other worship leaders and those of you who have traveled to be with us.  We do have a regret---that is that we cannot have long, deep meaningful conversations with each of you—you know.  The kind of soul-to-soul conversations you had with John Wesley.    A man who could have such conversations deserves the most intimate eulogy possible so my remarks will be based on father-son conversations. 

1.  late winter, 1977    Finis finally talked me into it.”  “Talked you into what?”   “I’m going on a district.”  “Well, Daddy, I know a lot of preachers who would consider that a step up.”  No, Bill, the highest and best position any Methodist preacher can have is being a local church preacher.   In know sometimes they are called to appointments outside the local church, but they should always consider those temporary sacrifices they are making until they can get back in the local church.”

The starting point for understanding JWH was that he considered himself first, last, and always a local church pastor-----and what a pastor he was!    His idea of pasturing a local church was really very simple----convince the unchurched that their lives would be much better if they were in a church and convince the established members to increase their involvement in the church.  He had a small metal file box on his desk with index cards with each family in the church on a card.  “What’s that?” I asked.  “That’s my system for visiting every family at least once a year in their homes.”   “Is that really necessary?” I asked.  “You can’t really minister to people if you don’t know their needs, and you don’t know their needs unless you visit them in their homes.”  Those visits were mainly to increase involvement.  If the family attended and nothing else, the visit was to try to get them to Sunday School or choir.  If they attended church and Sunday School, the visit was to get them to teach Sunday School or serve on a committee.  If they served on a committee it was to assume a leadership role—and on up the ladder of involvement.   He didn’t succeed every time.  I was looking at the index cards and saw the initials BPO, and asked him—“:What does that mean? “Oh, those are ones who want their names on the roll but never come.  It stands for Burial Purposes Only.”

2.  Summer, 1980---“The most important leadership is moral leadership.”  JWH had been elected bishop and was packing in Baytown and moving to Oklahoma.  He seemed to want me around to talk.  I was in his office.  There were three stacks of books.  Two stacks were the last 10 years of Journals of the two conferences in his area.  By the time he got to Oklahoma, he knew the appointments for the last 10 years, the membership, lay delegates, pastor’s salary, and whether each church had paid apportionments.  The third stack was business management books.  He’d read them too, but waved them away---“They’re all about technique.  Technique without character leads to disaster.  In church, business, education, or government---a moral vision is what counts—not technique.”

3.  February 1984---I was wakened by an early morning phone call.  Well, Bill, we’ve just had one more demonstration of the temporary nature of the things of this world.”  He and Mother had just been the victims of arson—escaping with their lives and night clothes and nothing else.  He’s calling with a borrowed telephone wrapped in a Red Cross blanket---.  They rebuilt and on Labor Day holiday, the arsonist came back and did it again.   We all felt the family needed to be together so we all convened in Virginia at Christmas.  As my father and I talked about the events of 1984, he kept talking about the blessings he and Mother had received.  Finally I said, “Name one.”  He said, “I’ll name two.   The outpouring of love we have received from the Methodists of Oklahoma means more to us than all the furniture, cars, clothes, everything.”  He went on.  “All my life I have been the one bringing comfort.  The fires made me learn that sometimes it can also be a blessing to be on the other end.”

4.  After moving to SMU—“Bill, don’t you find it odd that I’m part of a seminary.  I’m no scholar.  I’m no theologian.  Yes, but he could supply something to Perkins no one else could.  My imagination takes to a seminary class on Methodist doctrine.  The subject is “sanctification.”  A student raises a hand.  “Professor, is sanctification an ideal we always strive for or a state we are supposed to achieve?”  The professor says, “You need to get to know John Wesley Hardt.  He’s the closest I’ve ever seen.”  Yes, JWH embodied sanctification---It was as if divine love so filled his heart that there was no room for anything negative.  In my entire life, I never once heard him utter a mean-spirited word against another person. 
His favorite time of the academic year was summer, because that meant “Course of Study, and that meant non-traditional students would be on campus.  He would say, “Bill, take me to Chapel.” And we would go.  I’ll tell you a secret.  He didn’t pay attention to the service.  He scanned Perkins Chapel making sure he knew everybody in the room.  If he didn’t know someone, he would make a beeline to the unknown student, introduce himself.  “Where are you from?”  “oh, a little town in East Texas.  You’ve never heard of it.”  ---Ha!  I knew what was coming.   “Well, I’ve been in East Texas, where was it” It didn’t matter if it was Center or Centerville, Douglass or Douglassville, the reply was the same.  “Well, I held a revival there in 1950.” Then he would recite the names of the church leaders whom he had met, and the student would walk away amazed.

5.  I wonder why I’m being allowed to live so long.”
 That’s easy.  God kept finding new ways John Wesley could be in ministry.  I would visit at CC Young. After dinner he would announce.  “So and So is released from the hospital over in rehab.  I’m going over for a visit.”   I would watch in suspense as he hobbled down that sloping sidewalk, hoping that he would not fall.  In a few minutes he would be back—and glowing—He was back from just one more bedside prayer, one more consoling visit to a family---the flame that burned in that pastoral heart could not be dimmed even by infirmity.

I’ll close with a story. (You didn’t think you were getting out of here without some Methodist history did you?)   Right after the Civil War some Southern Methodist leaders thought that since the north-south split had been caused by slavery and slavery was now abolished, there were possibilities of reunion.   They decided on a plan.  They would send an ambassador to the MEC General Conference of 1868.  They knew that such an ambassador had to be someone universally recognized for his holiness, and they had such a person, a retired preacher from Georgia, already in his 80’s named Lovick Pierce.  He had been ordained in 1804, and in the more than 60 years of ministry, no one person could point to any stain or shortcoming on his record.  Contemporary descriptions include phrases like, “he wore goodness like a cloak,” “sweet spirit,” and “irenic heart.” 

There is no doubt that if such a mission were needed in our era, to find the one person our church wanted to present to the world and say----“look, look, here is the proof that the abundant life proclaimed in the Gospel and preached from our pulpits, it’s true, it’s possible.  It would have been John Wesley Hardt.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   June 18

Women’s Choral Group Gains National Attention for Lon Morris   June 1949

Lon Morris College, an institution of the Texas Conference of the Methodist Church, was nationally famous for its fine arts program.  Several of its former students achieved fame as professionals.  It was no accident.  The Lon Morris administration was devoted to the fine arts program.  Lon Morris recruited talented students and provided the resources they needed to succeed.  Readers will recognize the names of Tommy Tune, Sandy Duncan, K. T. Oslin, and Margo Martindale.  All of them attended Lon Morris. 

One can get a good idea of such support by looking at the schedule of a choral group of 8 women during June 1949.  The women appeared at Annual Conference in Houston and at the formal opening of Lakeview Methodist Assembly in nearby Anderson County.  They sang several times each week at luncheon clubs and churches and highlighted the Watermelon Festival in Nacogdoches.
The big trip, though, was to New York City to sing at the International Lion’s Club Convention.  While they were there, they also appeared on several national radio broadcasts.  

Lon Morris was a junior college so all the students were barely out of high school when they participated in these travel experiences.  The eight women who made up the group were Joy Hamilton (Rusk), Ruth Wilson (Huntsville), Jean Officer (Jacksonville),  Jackie Strickland (Lufkin), Shirley Richards (Freeport), Veldean Scott (Fairfield),  Mary Crouch (Port Arthur),  and Nelda Million (Liberty).  

There was another Lon Morris student who achieved musical stardom, but those talents weren’t really developed at Lon Morris.  Johnny Horton, from Gallatin, came to Lon Morris and played basketball.    He practiced his singing talents in the beer joints over the Louisiana line. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   June 11

Granbury College Holds Commencement Exercises  June 15, 1883

19th century Texans didn’t have many choices for higher education.  The state government didn’t see its role as spending tax money for colleges and universities.   Public higher education came to Texas only after the Civil War through the federal legislation creating land grant colleges which had been sponsored by Justin Morrill  (1810-1898) of Vermont.   The passage of the Morrill Act was one of the most important events in American history since it spurred the creation of universities throughout the nation.  The Morrill Homestead in Vermont has been preserved.  I have visited it to my great pleasure.   The impact on Texas was the creation of Texas A & M and Prairie View A & M.

Those two institutions could not begin to meet the educational needs of the state, and the denominations continued to create schools as they had done before the Civil War.

In 1873 the Weatherford District of the North West Texas Conference of the MECS authorized the construction of a 3 story stone building that would be used as a high school in Granbury.  The school opened but was beset by difficulties.  In 1881 it expanded to junior college status under the presidency of Rev. David A. Switzer. 

Commence exercises often consumed an entire week, and in 1883 the festivities were to begin with a worship service on Sunday, June 10 and continue through the 14th as students demonstrated what they had learned—mainly through elocution exercises, musical numbers,  and standing before audiences who asked them questions over their course material.

The week started poorly when Rev. John Murphy of Weatherford who was to preach the commencement sermon, became ill and didn’t arrive.  The newspaper report said—“No great loss.  There had been a heavy rain and most of the congregation didn’t come either.”

The elocution exercises were competitive so a highlight of the proceedings was the announcement of the winner.  P. B. Ward of Bosque County won the most prestigious award, the Lane Gold Medal, donated by the Presiding Elder of the Eastland District, Rev. J. K. Lane.  The Faculty Medal for the female who submitted the best original composition went to Miss Fannie Tramell of Coryell County. 

In January 1887 Granbury College burned and all its contents were lost.  It survived by moving to Weatherford.  The institution went through several reorganizations, but has managed to survive when many other similar institutions failed.  From 1943 to 1949 it was part of Southwestern University under President J. N. R. Score’s plan to make Southwestern the head of university system with feeder junior colleges.

 It officially serves Parker, Hood, Jack, Palo Pinto, and Wise Counties with multiple campuses and educational programs.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 4

C. A. West Announces Publication of Methodism on the March, June 4, 1959

On Thursday morning, June 4, 1959 the Rev. C. A. West announced the publication of the only comprehensive history of the Texas Annual Conference, Texas Conference:  Methodism on the March.  He also distributed order forms for the volume which had not yet been printed.  West indicated that the book would be available by the first day of annual conference, 1960.

The history was a project of the Historical Society of the Texas Conference through an editorial board it created for this effort.  In 1958 it received a loan from the conference.  Repayment of the loan would be made possible through books sales. 
1960 seemed like a good time to publish a history.  Bishop A. Frank Smith had presided over the conference since 1934.  He would be retiring in 1960, and everyone knew an historic era was ending.  1960 was also the publication date of the History of Texas Methodism:  1900-1960, edited by Olin Nail of the South West Texas Conference.  Nail’s history was an attempt to update the older histories written by Thrall and Phelan.  

Both history books were committee efforts and therefore vary in quality by section.  C. A. West is listed as Editor of March.  The other named contributors include Monroe Vivion, Mark Lewis, Gordon Alexander, Nace Crawford, Tom Felder, Harry Holmes, Ray Loden, Pat Thompson, and Mrs Lamar Clark.  

Readers familiar with Texas Conference history will recognize that Alexander, Crawford, Thomson, and Alexander all had Lakeview connections.  That was no accident.  In the 1950s there was no Commission on Archives and History.  The archives and historical interests of the conference were served by the Historical Society.  When the Central Building was built at Lakeview, the Society created a Historical Center as part of the new construction.   That Center displayed historic documents and artifacts.  

March is still useful, but more as a reference work instead of a history.  It contains the Conference officers for 1959, a photo directory of preachers, and capsule histories of the Conference institutions.  The largest section of March consists of summaries of the sessions of the Texas and East Texas Conferences.  They list ordinands, retirees, transfers, etc.  

March was published by Parthenon Press of Nashville.  I don’t know if sales were strong enough to pay off the debt incurred by printing expenses.  When I became Archivist, I found unopened cases of the book, still in the original shipping cases, in the Archives.  If you would like to own one, contact me.

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.