Sunday, December 17, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History -December 17

First Methodist Houston Worships in New Sanctuary December 18, 1910

The sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Houston is one of those sacred spaces with the power to evoke powerful memories. Since it has hosted so many annual conferences, many persons will remember services of ordination. Others will remember stirring sermons from some of the masters of preaching who have occupied the pulpit. Countless others will recall weddings and baptisms. The first worhsip service in that sanctuary was held on December 18, 1910.

Houston in 1910 was still the "Magnolia City," a cotton and lumber town whose motto was "Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea." On the other hand, it was rapidly transforming itself into the petroleum capital of the United States. It was booming. Methodism was booming.

The oldest Methodist church in the city was Shearn, founded in the 1840s. It occupied a building on Texas Avenue built in 1883. It had been damaged in the storm of 1900, and although repairs had been made, it was obvious that another structure would better serve the congregation's needs.

By 1906 the Board authorized the sale of the Texas Avenue location and purchase of new property. Trustees were quite aware of other Methodist churches in the area. South End (renamed St. Paul's in 1906) and Heights (renamed Grace in 1906) had both been organized in 1905. Shearn trustees offered merger opportunities to Tabernacle (later St. John's) and Bering, a German speaking congregation.

The sale of the chuch property was quickly accomplished. Jesse Jones bought the property on Texas Avenue and later built the Chonicle Building there. Shearn moved into rented quarters. It would be homeless for four years as an economic depression called the Panic of 1907 hit the country.

Eventually property was obtained at Main and Clay. October, 1909 witnessed the ground breaking, one month after the Board changed the name from Shearn to First Methodist.

Construction continued through 1910. The first use of the new sanctuary was an organ recital on December 5. The congregation was invited for a tour on the 6th, and finally on December 18 the congregation held its first worship service. Bishop Edwin Mouzon preached the first sermon. The pastor, Rev. J. W. Moore preached the evening service. First Methodist Houston had a new home!


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