Saturday, June 30, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 1

Bishop Hendrix Dedicates New Church Building in Galveston, July 6, 1902

Students of Texas history rightly stress the importance of the Galveston storm of 1900 as one of the turning points in our state’s history.  Political historians point to the reforms in municipal government known as the “Galveston Plan” that followed the disaster.  Urban historians point out that that the destruction of Galveston helped Houston become the dominant port of the western Gulf of Mexico.  Historians of technology remain fascinated by the construction of the seawall and raising the grade behind that seawall. 

Texas Methodist history also took a dramatic turn after the Galveston storm of 1900.  The most important development was the merger of two MECS churches, Saint John’s and Saint James’s.  Since the new church location was between the previous locations at the corner of 19th Street and Ave. I, the church was renamed Central Methodist Church.   The magnificent church building was designed to accommodate about 800 to 1000 worshippers by using a sliding partition between Sunday School rooms and the auditorium. 

The pastor who spearheaded the merger and construction was the Rev. Seth Ward, probably the most prominent member of the Texas Annual Conference of the era.  When it came time for the dedicatory service on July 6, 1902, he invited Bishop Eugene R. Hendrix (1847-1927) of Kansas City to come deliver the sermon.  Ward knew that he would not enjoy the fruits of his labors in Galveston.  Ward had been named assistant missionary secretary.  The new position required a move to Nashville.  July 6 would mark the last Sunday Seth Ward would serve a local church appointment.  In 1906 he was elected bishop, becoming the first native-born Texan to achieve that position.    The new preacher, Rev. Eugene R. Crawford arrived on July 13to assume the Central pastorate.  In 1906 Central Methodist changed its name to First Methodist Church

The 1902 building served the congregation until 1964.  As the building aged, the congregation decided to relocate rather than refurbish.   The generosity of Libbie Shearn Moody allowed the congregation to build a strikingly handsome church in a new location (53rd and Ave. U).  The name of the church was changed to Moody Memorial at that time. 

(The current Central United Methodist Church in Galveston is the successor to West End Methodist and 33rd St. Methodist.  It took the name “Central” in 1927.)


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