Saturday, March 11, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 11

Robert Alexander Reports on First Round of Quarterly Conferences, Mar. 16, 1840

By December 1839 Methodist work in Texas had grown so much that it was able to organize two districts in the Mississippi Conference.  Littleton Fowler was Presiding Elder of the East Texas District which consisted of the churches east of the Trinity River plus Montgomery with the exception of the churches in Northeastern Texas which were part of the Arkansas Conference.  Robert Alexander was Presiding Elder of the Rutersville District which consisted of the churches in western Texas.  They included Rutersville where the conference had opened a college in January 1840, Austin, Victoria, Houston, Galveston, Matagorda, Nashville, Brazoria, and Washington.
The duty of the Presiding Elder was to visit each  appointment 4 times per year to hold a quarterly conference.  At the end of his first round of visits Alexander sent a report of that round to Nathan Bangs in New York City.  Bangs was head of the Publishing House in New York City.   You have seen the iconic image of the circuit rider reading as he rode his horse with saddlebags.  The book he was reading was from the Publishing House and the saddlebags were stuffed with tracts and testaments from the Publishing House.  There was another Publishing House in Cincinnati because shipping costs to the West were so high.
The Publishing House also published the denominational newspaper, the Christian Advocate.   The two publishing houses were only buildings owned by the whole denomination.  There were no conference offices, no headquarters buildings for agencies, commissions, or boards, so correspondence of denominational nature went to the Publishing House, and Nathan Bangs often printed that correspondence in the Advocate. 

Here is an excerpt from Alexander’s report from March 16, 1840

.. .The preachers in their respective circuits  are truly in he spirit of their work, and do not seem to regard the difficulties and privation with which they have to contend, but rather esteem it a privilege to range these wilds in search of the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and regard the swimming of creeks and rivers and sleeping alone in the prairies, surrounded by howling wolves and beasts of prey, as very trivial circumstances, while the people appear hungry for the bread of life.


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