Saturday, February 09, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History February 13

St. John’s Methodist Church in Galveston Dedicated and Consecrated Same Day February 12, 1871

In Methodist terminology a new church building is dedicated when construction is complete and the facilities are ready for worship. It is consecrated when the building is debt free. .

After the Civil War Galveston, which had been one of the few cities in Texas to see actual combat, resumed its prominence as the leading port of the Western Gulf of Mexico. Cotton shipments resumed as farms in the hinterland resumed production. Galveston experienced prosperity.

It was that prosperity that enabled the construction of what Homer Thrall called “unquestionably the finest church building in Texas.” The first Methodist church building in Galveston depended upon donations from the United States. That church was Ryland Chapel in the early 1840s.

By 1868 Galveston Methodism had outgrown Ryland Chapel. Methodists purchased a lot at the intersection of Bath and Broadway, and construction soon began. The church, named St. John’s, was two story Gothic with a tower. The sanctuary was 52 x 80 feet with 144 padded walnut pews. Naturally there were also Sunday School rooms, a second floor assembly hall, and offices.

Bishop Enoch Marvin came to Galveston to dedicate the building. He preached the dedicatory sermon. That afternoon and evening the congregation raised the remaining $16,000 of the $75,000 cost of the building so Bishop Marvin then consecrated the building—a magnificent accomplishment. They had dedicated and consecrated the new church in a single day.

The joy of the day was marred by a maritime tragedy. The Varuna had sailed from New York City on October 15, 1870. The passenger list was a veritable Who’s Who of the Galveston commercial elite. The Varuna sank in a storm off the east coast of Florida. All passengers drowned. Two of the victims, Allen Lewis and J. L. Briggs were trustees of St. John’s. Read more about it in the New York Times at


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