Saturday, February 22, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  February 23

Enoch Marvin Appointed to Marshall, February 1865.

The First United Methodist Church of Marshall has a magnificent stained glass window dedicated to one of its preachers who was elected bishop while serving that church.  Enoch Mather Marvin was the first Texas preacher to be elected a Methodist bishop.

Actually Marvin was much more a Missourian than a Texan.  He had been born in Warren County, Missouri, in 1823, and climbed  the steps of ordination to full membership in the Missouri Conference by 1843.  He was far from polished, and observers of the young preacher commented on his awkwardness and ill-fitting clothes.   In spite of his rough-hewn ways, he had the gift of connecting with the common people and was presiding elder before he was thirty.  In 1856 we was appointed to the Centenary Church in St. Louis, one of the best appointments in the conference in one of the great cities of the era.

He filled that appointment until 1862 when he left.  By that time, it was obvious that Missouri was to remain in the Union, and Marvin’s sympathies were with the South.  Marvin served as chaplain to Confederate forces and often preached in MECS churches, including the one in Marshall, Texas.  One should recall that the Missouri government in exile used Marshall as its headquarters from November 1863 to the end of the war.
In February 1865 the Marshall preacher, C. L. Hamill, died.  A delegation of Marshallites went ot the Presiding Elder to ask him to send Marvin to be their preacher.  Marvin was well-known to the congregation since he had preached at the church several times in 1864. 

Enoch Marvin accepted the position and set the wheels in motion requesting that Abraham Lincoln authorize his family to pass through the military lines. Mrs. Marvin had remained in St. Louis and had not seen her husband since his 1862 departure.  In March, 1865 Mrs. Marvin and the children not only got permission, but transportation down the Mississippi on a Federal gun boat.  They eventually found their way up the Red River and a short distance overland to Gaines Crossing of the Sabine.  By this time they were being escorted by Confederate rather than Union soldiers, and a reunion was achieved. 

The story of Marvin’s election in absentia at the General Conference of 1866 is well known, including his refusal to shave his beard and the necessity to buy new clothes for his consecration service.

Enoch Marvin was one of the most beloved bishops of his era.  Marvin UMC in Tyler is named for him.  Marvin College in Waxahachie and Enoch Marvin College in Kan were both named for him.  There were also many Texas Methodists who named their sons “Marvin” in his honor.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  February 16

Charles F. Smith Reports on his Pastorate at San Augustine

The Rev. Charles F. Smith was born in Westville, Mississippi, in 1859.  After serving appointments in his home state, he transferred to the East Texas Conference and was appointed to San Augustine.  He served a succession of appointments in East Texas including Presiding Elder.  His great passion was history.  Service at San Augustine made him aware of the historic importance of McMahan’s Chapel.  In his retirement years, he attended St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Houston and became the custodian of the “Conference Trunk.”  The Conference Trunk was a simple steamer trunk that contained historic documents of the conference.  Smith brought the trunk  to Annual Conference each year so that interested parties could examine those documents. The trunk was the predecessor of the Texas Conference Archives.  

Smith carried on an extensive correspondence with preachers, bishops, politicians, and historians.  He saved the correspondence and donated it to the Conference Archives.  He also compiled files of newspaper clippings and personal reminiscences.   He lived a very long time, dying in Houston in 1958 at the age of 98 and ½,   
Here is one of the reminiscences from the Archives dealing with his arrival in San Augustine.  

“First fruits” is scriptural.  Young and inexperienced I “landed” in Texas, in January 1886.  I had come from the other side of the “Father of Waters” to serve as Pastor at San Augustine, which included Union and Deming and whatever else I would.  The San Augustine circuit was organized by Robert Alexander, August 1837, the first formed circuit in Texas.

The third Sunday in January (1886) was my first in Texas, and toward the close of an unusually “cold spell”, unusual even for Texas.  There are those who still remember the “cold Friday, January 7th, when Galveston Bay and the Ayist (Ayish) Bayou froze over.  On that first Sunday there were 14 at Sunday School, and fully as many at the church service.  For some time the Sundays seemed to be in the hands of the “badweather man”.  But then, as now, pretty weather came and Church attendance improved.
On this day in the Audience, with his wife was a tall, high-forheaded, distinguished appearing man.  He was a good listener (?)  he did not come forward to meet the preacher, but soon the preacher called at his home.  Soon thereafter this man took the vows of Church-membership.  Columbus Cartwright was the “first fruit” of my Texas ministry.  He possessed intelligence and wisdom, also timidity and modesty in an unusual degree.  As steward, trustee and supporter of the Church he was dependable.
Later, when I was serving the district I would “turn in” for the night at Brother Cartwright’s.  On my last visit he said, “I’m glad you are here, I want to consult you about a matter.”  His plan was to buy a block of land for the church and parsonage.  This he did.  On that block stands our Fowler Meth Church (today FUMC) and the parsonage. The deed to the Church stipulated a certain part to be used exclusively for buggies and hitching purposes.

Why the stipulation?

The old church stood on a key lot—50 feet.

There was no place for the horse and buggy.  Twenty-five years and the horse and buggy quit going to church.  Surely the “world do move”!

It was in my second year in San Augustine that received by vows and baptism, a school boy, almost twenty.  He became a lawyer’ located to Beaumont, was elected District Attorney, then District Judge, later represented the district in Congress.  The Hon. M. L. Broocks.  His will contained a bequest to the San Augustine Church. 

(Moses Lycurgus Broocks 1864-1908, served one term in Congress (1905-1907) then moved back to San Augustine.)  (Columbus  “Cumby” Clinton Cartwright  1837-1901, supposedly tied his team to a fence near the church.  When he exited church, he found the woman whose fence he had used, had released the team.)

Saturday, February 08, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History February 9

Houston Hosts Ministerial Conference   February 8, 9, 1899

One of the effects of Methodism’s employing preachers who had little or no formal university or seminary training was an emphasis on self study and frequent preacher institutes for what we would call today in-service education.  Probationary members would be given a required reading list of religious works for the first four years of ministry.  One of the main activities of annual conference was an examination of the probationers covering the works they were supposed to have read during the preceding year.

Even after preachers obtained full annual conference membership, they were supposed to make regular, disciplined study a part of their lives.  One way to accomplish that was through a variety of conferences, institutes, and conventions.  In 1899 the Houston District of the MECS held such a conference.  Here is the full schedule. The lecture and discussion topics reveal much about the concerns of the era.  Some of those concerns persist to the present.

Session 1
What Does a Call to the Ministry Mean to Us?
The Spiritual Life of the Preacher or the Preacher as a Man of God
The Intellectual Life of the Preacher
The Preparation and Delivery of Sermons

Session 2
The Importance and Best Methods of Pastoral Work
Discussion:  The Duty of the Pastor to the Children and Young People
Discussion:  The Relation of the Pastor to the Finances of the Church
                     How May We Best Prevent the Idea that the Assessment*
                      is the Main
                     Object  Sought Instead of Worship in Giving?
                     Should All the Finances of the Church be in the hands of the Laity?

Session 3:The Prayer-Meeting—Its Importance and Best Means of Increasing Attendance
                  Revivals—Methods and Agencies
                  Discussion:  Protracted Meetings , Ordinary Services As Revival Agencies

Session 4:  The Need of a Missionary Conscience in the Ministry
                 The Need of a More Definite and Comprehensive  Knowledge of Missionary Work
                  Home Missions—Rural and City Evangelism
                  The Outlook in Foreign Fields
                   The Sunday School as an Opportunity for Missionary Education

Session 5  Closing worship

*modern usage is "apportionment"

Saturday, February 01, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  February 2

Ruth Ragsdale Defines "Christian," Wins $50   February 2, 1930

Dallas First Methodist Church had a great idea for increasing attendance at its Sunday evening services.  They offered a $50 prize for the person submitting the best definition of “Christian.”  The contest required that the submissions be dropped in the collection plate at a Sunday evening service.  

$50 in 1930 was a significant sum, and you may be sure that there was no lack of  entries.  The winner was Ruth Ragsdale, a woman in her mid-thirties.   The prize was awarded by the pastor, the Rev. Carl Gregory at the 7:30 p.m. service on February 2, 1930.  

I am sure you are wondering what the winning definition was.  It was as follows:

A Christian is an avowed follower of Christ who endeavors to make his life comform as nearly as possible to the teachings of Jesus.