Sunday, February 26, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Feb. 26

Texas Conference Heritage Center Opens This Tuesday, Feb. 28

We are delighted to invite you to the dedication and grand opening of the Texas Conference Archival Center in Conroe, Texas, at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28. 

The Archival Center is on the campus of the Texas Conference Mission Center, but is a building devoted solely to archives.  The grand opening of the Mission Center will also occur on the 28th so visitors can see facilities devoted to two different conference ministries. 

The road to the Conroe facility has been long and winding.  The Discipline written after the creation of the United Methodist Church in 1968 mandated that each annual conference maintain its archives in a “fire safe” building under the direction of a Commission on Archives and History.   The various annual conferences complied with the mandate in various ways.  Some annual conferences placed the archives in the conference headquarters.  Some had a college or university library available.  A small number used a museum or historic structure. 

The constituent conferences of the TUMHS have examples of all three.  The Rio Texas, New Mexico, and North West Texas Conference Archives are in the Conference offices.  The North Texas and Oklahoma Indian Mission Conferences are in University Libraries (SMU and OCU respectively).  The Central Texas Conference Archives are in a repurposed church building. 

The Texas Conference Archives have had a curious journey.  Before the creation of the CAH the main ministry of memory was the Conference Heritage Society and the “Conference Trunk.”  The custodian of the trunk, the Rev. Charles F. Smith (1859-1958), brought the trunk of historical artifacts to conference every year for display, and when the Central Building at Lakeview was completed, one room was designated the Heritage Center.  

  The first response of the Texas Conference to the 1968 General Conference action was to designate the Heritage Center in the Central Building at Lakeview as the Archives.  Such an arrangement proved unsuitable.  The space had been designed more as museum display than records storage.  The site was inconvenient to researchers.  As the Lakeview facility proved inadequate, the Archives moved to Lon Morris College.  The college president, Faulk Landrum, solicited funds for the construction of an addition to the library to serve as archival storage.  One of the librarians became the Archivist. 

Later the Archives were removed from the library and were moved to a double classroom in an academic building.  Archival duties were removed from the library staff and entrusted to a retired pastor.  In July 2010, Dr. Landrum, who had since retired and was Conference Archivist, was informed that the space in the academic building was now needed for instructional purposes. 

The archives were moved to rental storage units in Jacksonville, and the CAH was tasked with planning for a permanent facility.  The “exodus and exile” period of our history is finally over.  We are coming out of the wilderness.  I hope to see you on the 28th as we celebrate. 

The address is 3771 N Loop 336 E, Conroe, Texas 77302.     

Saturday, February 18, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   Feb.19

“Most impressive gathering of young people ever” at Beaumont, Feb. 23, 1939

There was a time when Texas Methodist districts hosted huge youth rallies.  They didn’t need celebrity athletes, popular singers, magicians, or other attractions to draw a crowd.  The rally was just a church service with congregational singing, sermons, and special music.   They didn’t need celebrity attractions because Methodist youth were organized into Epworth League chapters in practically every church.  The League  held district and sub-district meetings regularly.  An elaborate system for encouraging attendance at these events was already in place.   Quotas for attendance at these meetings were assigned.  Prizes, in the form of felt banners or loving cups, were often awarded to the church youth groups that met or exceeded their quotas.  A friendly competition between the church groups drove much of the attendance.
A notable rally was on Thursday night, Feb. 23, 1939.  The organizers reported 1700 youth in attendance at First Methodist Beaumont.  One local reporter reported 2000 and also reported that many were turned away because of the lack of room.  The wings of the Akron style auditorium were thrown open and some attendees even sat on the floor inside the chancel. 
They came from Orange, Buna, Woodville, Port Arthur, Anahuac, Silsbee, and all other churches in the district.  They came by chartered Greyhound busses, school busses, and private automobiles.  Many of them arrived well before the stated starting time.  Each church tried to meet its quota---3/4 of the membership of the youth group reported at the last session of annual conference. 
The youth of Roberts Avenue Methodist started with their rendition of I Surrender All.  T. Walter Moore (Dayton) welcomed the youth and introduced N. H. Melbert (Port Arthur) who led a song service.  (We’re Marching to Zion, The Kingdom is Coming, and Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross) The host pastor, Joe Z Tower, welcomed the group and turned the program over to Grace Van Watts (president of the Tri-district Council) who read the scripture.  Agnes Dillenback (Dayton) spoke on Youth is Ready.  Jesse Thompson talked about the Youth Crusade then underway.   The Presiding Elder, W. R. Swain then introduced the main speaker for the evening, W. Angie Smith, of First Methodist Church Dallas.  Smith was the brother of Bishop A. Frank Smith who presided over the Texas Conference.  In 1944 Angie would also become a bishop. 
Such rallies continued into the 1950s, but became rarer as cultural changes made such events seem old fashioned.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   Feb. 12

Dallas Methodist Church Hosts State Temperance Meeting,  Feb. 12, 1875

On Friday, February 12, 1875 delegates from various sections of Texas assembled at the Methodist church in Dallas, located at the corner of Commerce and Elm, to formulate plans for the Texas Temperance Society.  The president of the Society was Prof. W. H. Scales, a Methodist preacher and head of the Dallas Female College. 

There had been temperance societies in Texas since the days of the Republic, but the disturbances of the Civil War had disrupted their activities.  This meeting in 1875 was intended to re-organize the movement to stem the flood of alcoholic beverages that seemed to flow so freely in Texas.    Scales was elected to assume the presidency of the organization.  
A resolutions committee was appointed and went to work preparing resolutions to be voted on by the plenary body.  The body adjourned for the noon hour and reassembled at 3:00 p.m.    Two resolutions passed easily, but the third resolution threw the convention into disputes.  The resolutions committee offered a resolution that the Temperance Society should be turned into a political party.  This was to radical a step for the delegates who rejected the resolution.   
Throughout the temperance movement that morphed into the prohibition movement, there was an internal argument between the proponents of legislation and the proponents of persuasion.  
The convention adjourned on Saturday after naming an Executive Committee chaired by W. S. Coleman of Harrison County,  with with N. M. Burford and M. B. Franklin of Dallas, E. Finch of Johnson County, and James Burke of Harris County.   
   The geographic diversity of the Executive Committee is an illustration of the impact of railroads.   The lack of gender diversity is also notable.   The temperance/prohibition movement received its greatest momentum when women assumed more leadership roles.  The movement achieved its goals through constitutional amendment. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Feb. 5

Chuncey Richardson Reports on Visit to San Antonio, Feb. 1850
When traveling with non-Texans, I am often asked, “If I want to visit Texas, and can only go to one destination, where should I go?”
That’s an easy question, and I don’t hesitate, “San Antonio.”
San Antonio is the most popular tourist destination in Texas, and no wonder!  It has arts, history, culture, food, scenery---and a touch of exoticism—going all the way back to its early 18th century founding. 
19th century Methodists found it a hard city to evangelize.  Their prejudice against Roman Catholicism blinded them to many of the city’s attractions. 
Annexation to the United States brought U. S. Army posts, provisioning companies, and other commercial enterprises.  Many of the new residents were immigrants from the older states of the Union, and therefore more amenable to Methodist ministrations that the older population.
Chauncey Richardson, editor of the Texas Wesleyan Banner visited San Antonio and naturally wrote a travel account.    Like countless other visitors, he marveled at the beautiful architecture of Mission San Jose, the scenic San Antonio River, the plazas, and the irrigation system which he called “asequias”.
He enjoyed the military band practicing its music, and made the acquaintance of the post Chaplain, the Rev. John Fish, an Episcopal priest who had arrived at the post the previous July.   Richardson closed his travel account by reporting on a conversation with Rev. Fish:
“Well, I saw you at the church today, trampling Roman Catholicism beneath your feet. A bold move, truly, but quite characteristic of Methodist ministers.”   We thanked him for the compliment, and a mutually pleasant conversation ensued.”