This Week in Texas Methodist History June 26
Epworth Era Debuts, July 1894
Previous posts have highlighted the role of the Epworth League in Texas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The organization of Methodist youth and young adults provided invaluable service to the denomination. It lifted up missionary concerns, recruited men and women for Christian vocation, and was an important training ground for future denominational leaders.
The official organ of the MECS Epworth League was the Epworth Era which debuted in July 1894 with S. A. Steel as editor. The corresponding MEC publication was the Epworth Herald, published in Chicago. The Era began optimistically as a monthly and soon grew into a widely-circulated periodical. It reported on activities of state Epworth League conventions, provided topic ideas for prayer meetings, and almost always reported on activities in the various mission fields.
In 1919 the editor was Fitzgerald S. Parker. Here is a representative sampling of reports from the field in June and July 1919.
The West Texas Conference met in Corpus Christi led by President Mrs. Kuehne. Speakers included Miss Ruby Van Hooser of Scarritt Bible Training School and W. H. Moore of the Mission Board.
The North Texas Conference met in Paris and registered the largest number of attendees of any of the annual conferences—over 300. They pledged over $9000 for missions. They adopted W. H. Moore as their missionary to Brazil and raised over $1500 for his support. At the conclusion of “Bob” Schuler’s sermon asking for full time volunteers for missionary service, 12 members met him at the altar.
The C. M. E. Sunday School and Epworth League were also meeting in Paris at the same time and MECS officials were invited to address them.
About 90 Central Texas Leaguers met at Polytechnic MECS church in Fort Worth and heard the blind preacher from Lawton, Oklahoma, Willmore Kendall and Alonzo Monk.
The Texas Conference League met at Houston, and President L. L. Nelms and Secretary Lulu Beard managed to secure pledges of about $1200 from the 80 delegates.
The annual conference meetings were just a prelude to the big event, however. That was the Texas State Assembly at Epworth by the Sea near Port O’Connor. The campground/convention facility was wholly owned by the Epworth Leagues in Texas and in 1919 featured Frank Onderdonk, Frank Smith, Hiram Boaz, Paul Kern, and other major players in Texas Methodism.
The Epworth Era was able to continue publication until 1931 when it fell victim to the changing times. If the name of its editor, Fitzgerald Parker, is familiar, you may know it from Mt. Sequoyah in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In 1924, as Mt. Sequoyah was being built as a retreat and conference center, Epworth Leagues in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana raised funds to build Epworth Lodge. In 1936 upon the death of Fitzgerald Parker, it was renamed in his honor. It is the oldest remaining building on the campus.