Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 18

Methodist Orphanage Dedicated in Waco, December 22, 1901

One of the Texas Methodist institutions with greatest longevity of service is the Methodist Home in Waco. It has changed its name from “Orphanage” to “Home,” and increased the range of services and proudly celebrates more than a century of ministry to children and youth.

December 22, 1901 was a special day in the life of the Methodist Orphanage. A distinguished group of Methodists gathered to celebrate the formal dedication of the administration building. The dedication was a celebration of the fact that the Orphanage was debt free. Bishop Joseph Key came from his home in Sherman to preach the dedicatory sermon. In 1890 Bishop Key suggested the orphanage project in large part to unify the Northwest Texas Conference which was being rent by disputes over the Holiness Movement. Horace Bishop, a Waco pastor (see column for Dec. 4, 2011), was instrumental in securing the institution for Waco. The renowned evangelist team of Abe and Louisa Mulkey adopted the Orphanage as their special cause. As they held revivals, they donated the proceeds of one night’s offering to the fledgling institution. By 1901, the Mulkey’s had donated about $5000 of their own money and raised another $11,000 in those collections to be applied to the cost of a $20,000 administration building. Their dedication to the cause was recognized on the cornerstone, “Preached, prayed, and sung up by the Rev. Abe and Louisa Mulkey.” Their generosity did not end with the dedication of the building. They continued to donate thousands of dollars to the Orphanage.

The combined congregations of the Methodist churches in Waco met in the Orphanage auditorium for 11:00 o’clock services at which Bishop Key preached. At 3:00 o’clock the auditorium was filled again to listen to Abe Mulkey preach the official dedicatory sermon. Rev. W. H. Vaughn, who had been the Manager from its inception, could point with pride to the accomplishments of the first decade. The first resident, David Harrison from Hill County, knocked on Vaughn’s door in 1894 and announced, “My name is David, and I’ve come to live with you.” In the seven years between David’s arrival and the dedication, 229 more orphans came. About 40 of them had been adopted. Six had died, and on December 22, 1901, there were 110 residents of the Orphanage.

Another reason for the debt-free status was that the Orphanage had expanded its base of support from the Northwest Texas Conference to other MECS conferences in the state. Assessments on those conferences ranged from $1500 for the Northwest Texas Conference to $150 for the German Conference.

Two parts of the dedicatory service on December 22, 1901, would seem very familiar to modern Methodists. All 110 residents of the Orphanage made up the choir for the dedicatory service. They also took up a Christmas collection. Both children’s choral music and a Christmas collection continue as part of the Methodist Children’s Home.

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