Saturday, March 27, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 28

Carl Urbantke Opens Mission Institute with Three Students, March 28, 1883

The origins of Blinn College in Brenham can be traced to the efforts of the Southern German Conference of the MEC to provide theological training for young Texans of German heritage so their could become preachers. Although Blinn College is no longer affiliated with the United Methodist Church, its predecessors, the Mission Institute and Blinn Memorial College, filled its role in ministerial training splendidly.

The Southern German Conference, authorized by the MEC General Conference of 1872, depended upon transfers from the German Conferences in the northern states. Retention was always a problem. Carl Urbantke reported that many of the wives of the preachers were unhappy in Texas far from family and comfortable parsonages and settled communities.

An obvious solution was “grow your own,” but lack of opportunities for theological education stood in the way. Rev. William Pfaeffle approached Urbantke with the proposal to begin a school. Urbantke was reluctant. “. . .I, who had received only an elementary school education, and who had lived fifteen years in the woods and studied while following the plough, was expected to establish a Mission Institute.”

Pfaeffle brought his plan before the annual conference which met in Seguin in December, 1882. He would be Brenham District presiding elder and act as financial agent for the Institute. Urbantke would be stationed at Brenham and also run the Institute. The conference accepted the plan.

On May 28, 1883 three students began their studies under Rev. Urbantke. He used the German Bible, commentaries, dictionaries, treatises, etc. and led those students in lessons from 8:00 to 12:00. In the afternoon he did his pastoral work. At night he prepared the lessons for the following day.

He began with Matthew, then moved to Paul’s epistles, and then included one of Peter’s. Many nights he worked until midnight. One advantage was that such a regimen always meant he had a text for a sermon on Sunday.

Pfaeffle solicited funds as he visited churches in his district. By summer he had enough to buy a lot and build a building. When the September term started, it opened in its own quarters.

The Institute prospered. The curriculum expanded beyond theology. Rev. C. Schuler was appointed to the church and Institute so Urbantke could devote full time to teaching and administration.

In March 1887 the Rev. Christian Blinn, preacher from New York, arrived for an extended visit. Blinn became an enthusiastic supporter. He offered $750 to hire a third teacher. He personally paid for and supervised the construction of a new building with three classrooms on the first floor and seven student rooms on the second. The building was completed by the end of April, less than two month’s of Blinn’s arrival in Brenham. The next year he sent $10.000 for the endowment. The Mission Institute became Blinn Memorial College.

This Wee in

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 21

Lubbock FUMC Hosts Annual Meeting of TUMHS, March 26-27, 2010

Lubbock FUMC will host the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Texas United Methodist Historical Society on March 26 and 27. The meeting will celebrate the centennials of the Central Texas and Northwest Texas Conferences.

The 1910 General Conference divided the previous Northwest Texas Conference. The Eastern one-third became the Central Texas Conference. It included Fort Worth, Waco, Temple, and Georgetown. The new Northwest Texas Conference included Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock, and dozens of smaller cities created along the new rail lines.

The program organizers have announced what should be an outstanding program. On Friday night the keynote will be delivered by Dr. David Murrah, author of a recent history of the Northwest Texas Conference. Other speakers include Michael Patison and Carol Roszell of the Central Texas Conference, and Betty Brownsted, winner of the 2010 Essay Contest. Participants will also be treated to a guided tour of historic Lubbock FUMC.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 14

R. T. Nabors Preaches Last Sermon March 10, 1884

The meteoric career of a prominent Texas preacher came to an end before his great potential could be realized on April 1, 1884. The Rev. R. T. Nabors, Chaplain of Vanderbilt University, died in Nashville at the age of thirty-three. Nabors was born in Shelby County, Alabama, in 1850. He attended a local academy and took a student appointment. He showed such promise that members of the Alabama Conference arranged from him to attend Southern University in Greensboro, Alabama. He graduated in 1873.
A common feature of 19th century university life was for a graduate to deliver an address as part of the commencement ceremonies. Few such addresses have had such life-changing impact. Bishop Keener was in the audience, and during the Nabors oration, the bishop decided to send Nabors to St. James Methodist in Galveston.

Most twenty-two year old preachers finishing their education in the 1870s could expect a circuit of perhaps a dozen preaching points, probably as a junior preacher. For such a young man to be appointed to a church in the most prosperous, sophisticated city in Texas was really remarkable. The transfer to the Texas Conference was not remarkable. Bishops had supervision of multiple conferences and often moved preachers between them.
Nabors served St. James for two years and was then appointed to Shearn Church in Houston, the predecessor of First United Methodist Church in Houston. The young preacher was a dynamo. He revived the Sunday School, created a Ladies Missionary Society (before the MECS created a similar organization), preached revivals, delivered countless commencement speeches, and delivered public lectures to raise funds for church projects. He even had time to return to Alabama and marry.

In the 19th century there was a four-year limit on pastorates so in 1879 it was time for Nabors to leave Shearn. He had just preached night and day for a six week protracted meeting, and was afflicted with “hemorrhages of the throat.” Bishop McTyeire believed, as did everyone else, that part of the problem was the oppressively hot, humid climate on the Texas Gulf Coast. The bishop transferred Nabors back to Alabama where he filled Tuscaloosa Station.

Nabors was such an accomplished preacher that job offers poured in. He refused them all, including the presidency of his alma mater, Southern University. In 1883, at the age of thirty-three, he was offered the Chaplaincy of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. That was an offer he could not pass up. Nashville in 1883 was to Southern Methodism as Rome was to Catholicism.

Nabors arrived at his new post, which included the spiritual leadership of the 500 students as well as the 300 hundred member campus church, on October 8, 1883. While he was setting up his new household, he stepped on a tile which broke and caused a laceration. Blood poisoning set in. He spent three months recuperating. In January Nabors returned to work, but his old throat problems recurred. He preached his last sermon on March 16 on the text, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” He died on April 1 and became the first person buried in the Vanderbilt Cemetery.

Wait. There’s more! Most of the information in this column is from Blandin’s History of Shearn Church 1837-1907. She is probably mistaken about the Nabors burial being the first one in the Vanderbilt Cemetery. Thomas O. Summers died in May, 1882, at General Conference, and was buried at Vanderbilt. That’s really a coincidence Summers, like Nabors, had served Galveston and Houston (1840-43) and then transferred to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, before going to Nashville.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 7

Bishop Paine Has a “One Dog Night” March 10, 1847

Readers knowledgeable about popular music will know the derivation of the name Three Dog Night used by an American rock band. The name is derived from the indigenous Australian practice of using dogs to stay warm on cold nights. A three-dog night is a a really cold night.

Bishop Robert Paine also had the benefits of canine body heat as he travelled to preside at the Texas Annual Conference. He was on his way to Chappell Hill when a norther blew in. When night came, the bishop’s travelling party was far from any settlement, but they did find a lone cabin in a grove of trees. Here is how Bishop Paine recorded the incident.

Well, we rode on getting colder and colder. It was near mid-night when we reached the settlement we were making for. It was was just a one room log hut in a clump of timber. The frontiersman was very kind. He invited us into his house, where there was a good fire in an old fashioned fire place. We had to hitch our horses to the trees without food of any kind.

In the one room there were two beds one occupied by our host and his wife, and the other by his mother-in-law. There was nothing for the rest of us but the dirt floor. We soon had made a pallet and stretched out side by side, covering with our shawls, overcoats,etc.

It was warm in the house out of the wind, and when we lay down I asked for the outside place, which was readily granted. I fell promptly to sleep, but woke up after a while exceedingly cold. The fire had died down, and the wind was coming in through a huge crack under the door. Covering up the best I could,and getting as much warmth from the next brother as possible I again fell into a troubled sleep. After a while I again woke warm and comfortable For a moment I cculd not understand it, but turning over I found that a large dog had crept during the night through the crack under the door, and had curled up just at my back. I patted him on the head and said,

"Good doggie you stay here." And he did, and I got a good sleep until things were stirring next morning."