Saturday, June 15, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 16

Southwest Texas Conference Holds Older Methodist Boys’ Conference  1944

The 2013 session of the Texas Annual Conference had as its theme, “Invest in the Young.”  Such a theme naturally turned the Texas Methodist historian’s mind back to previous efforts in promoting youth leadership.  The Southwest Texas Conference once had a program whose goal was to bring a 15-17 year-old-boy from each charge in the conference to Annual Conference.  It was called the Older Boys’ Conference.

The Rev. George Baker, Jr., of First Methodist San Angelo, suggested that each church send a 15-17 year-old-boy to the 1944  Annual Conference at Travis Park Methodist Church in San Antonio.  Bishop A. Frank Smith and his cabinet approved the idea so when Annual Conference convened there were 138 boys from a potential 200 churches in attendance.  Each church had financed the trip to San Antonio, but the expense was minimal since most of the boys lodged with Methodists in the Alamo City

They sat together during conference and also at special sessions at which some of the most distinguished figures of Texas Methodism addressed them.  President J. N. R. Score of Southwestern University and Dean Eugene Hawk of SMU represented Methodist educational institutions.  Marshall Steel and Dawson Bryan of Highland Park Dallas and St. Paul’s Houston preached to them.  The Conference Lay Leader, W. W; Jackson, also addressed them.

The purpose of the Older Boys’ Conference was to cultivate a new generation of Methodist leaders, both clergy and lay.  Part of the motivation must have been the fact that so many young Methodist men were absent from their usual pews in 1944, serving in Europe, the Pacific, and military bases around the United States.  There were still memories of World War I in which a whole generation of the finest youth of Europe that been destroyed in senseless warfare.  It was a time to reach these 15-17 year-olds right before they had the birthday that would make them old enough for military service.

A second session of Older Boys’ Conference was held in 1945 at which the attendance was 126.  Dr. Roy L. Smith was the main speaker. In 1946 the conference brought in the Rev. Howard Ellis of Evanston, Illinois, to provide the program for the Older Boys’ Conference.  Ellis was nationally known for illustrating his sermons with drawings while he preached.   The effort, however, was short-lived.  In 1947 the Conference Board of Education redirected the effort to a older youth conference held at Mount Wesley in Kerrville

I once interviewed one of the attendees at Older Boys’ Conference.  Rather than remembering the speakers or worship, he had a negative memory.  He was a 15 year-old from a small farming community in one of the coastal counties of the Southwest Texas Conference.   A visit to San Antonio was a big deal in itself.  He stayed with a host family in a northern suburb of San Antonio.  Each morning the host gave him two dimes for bus fare.  One afternoon, at the close of the session, he reached in his pocket and discovered he had lost the dime for the return bus ride.  The small town boy didn’t know anything else to do but walk all the way back to his lodgings.  His conference memory was of a three hour walk.  


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