Sunday, October 01, 2006

This Week In Texas Methodist History Oct. 1

Group Meets to Organize Chapelwood--October 2, 1948

Few events have been as important in Texas Methodist history as the post World War II church building boom. Although the impact was statwide, it was the burgeoning suburbs of the metropolitan areas that witnessed the most dramatic changes.

New church construction had almost come to a halt in the 1930s and 1940s. The Great Depression had many churches more concerned with survival than expansion. During World War II both building materials and labor for new church plants were unavailable. The Texas population had grown, but the number of churches had not kept pace with the population growth. Texas Methodists faced the immediate post war era with a severe facility shortage.

Returning veterans found a Texas that had been transformed from a rural agricultural state to an urban industrial one during World War II. Millions of Americans had experience dislocation due to military service or employment in war production industries. Religion had provided comfort during the war, and now the Cold War was being presented as a struggle between a religious America and athestic communism. Billy Graham was bringing southern evangelical Christianity to a nationwide audience. Results included an increase in religious participation and in new church construction.

The western suburbs of Houston provided the most dramatic example. One such new church as Chapelwood UMC which dates its beginnings to a home meeting on October 2, 1948. You may read this church's history at its website

The quarter century after World War II saw the west Houston churches mature and assume leading roles in the Texas Annual Conference. By 1970 the roster of ten largest membership churches in the confernce was as follows:

1. Houston First 9,663
2. Houston St. Luke's 5,796
3. Houston St. Paul's 5,434
4. Houston Memorial Drive 4,092
5. Houston Bellaire 4,004
6. Houston Westbury 3,758
7. Houston Chapelwood 3,050
8. Houston Terrace 2,920
9. Houston Fairhaven 2,694
10 Tyler Marvin 2,539

Methodism had been implanted in Texas in the 1840s and 1850s by circuit riders coming to the frontier. In the 1940s and 1950s there was a suburban frontier to be churched. Methodists in both eras used high levels of lay involvement, financial aid from established churches, and a cadre of young preachers who specialized in the task of church organization. In both cases they changed the religious face of Texas.


Post a Comment

<< Home