Saturday, May 20, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 21

Methodists Organize in Bastrop, Spring, 1833

(presented without comment)

Source:   In The Shadow Of The Lost Pine

Bastrop Methodist Church
Oldest In Southwest Texas
By Lucy R. Maynard
(Oct. 14, 1952)
   In studying the early cultural activities of people living at this place on the Colorado River, we read:
   “A party was usually an all-night affair since it was dangerous for the guests to return to their homes after dark. Mrs. Josiah Wilbarger Chambers recalled one such celebration which she said took place in Bastrop in the early 1830’s. A priest from San Antonio mission came to perform religious ceremonies for twenty-five couples who had been married by common contract. The wedding and the subsequent celebration took place in a two-story house in the southern part of the town which was a combination dance hall, courthouse and meeting house. After the ceremony, a feast was spread and the settlers made merry until daylight.”
   In 1832, James Gilliland moved to a place on the Colorado thirteen miles below Austin and built Moore’s Fort, about where Webberville is now. Gilliland was a Methodist exhorter and though not a licensed preacher, spent his free time riding bout the countryside gathering people together for religious services, and we read:
   “This lay preaching of Gilliland took him to the little settlement of Bastrop one Sunday morning in the spring of 1833. A meeting was held in the incomplete storehouse of Jesse Holderman. Planks were placed on boxes or kegs for seats and a barrel was used as a pulpit. On that memorable Sunday morning the first Methodist Church within the bounds of what is now our Conference was organized. The white people, Mr. and Mrs. C. Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Boyce, Mr. and Mrs. Delaplane, Mr. and Mrs. Brisband, Mrs. Sara McGehee, Mrs. Christian, and one Negro woman, Cecelia Craft, who belonged to Mrs. Samuel Craft, of Craft’s Prairie, became the charter members.”
   One account says that the brother of Mrs. Harriet Taylor (daughter of Samuel Craft of Craft’s Prairie) arrived home one Saturday saying that church services were to be held the next day in Bastrop. Mrs. Taylor and her brother rode in on horseback to the meeting. However, their names do not appear on the roster. Cecilia Craft was probably the maid who accompanied Mrs. Taylor.
   How often this group held services we do not know, because at that time, Protestant religious services were illegal and strictly forbidden. The Roman Catholic Church was the only religion permitted by the Mexican Government.

-transcription by Kate Maynard, 2012

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 14

Congregation Beth Israel Honors Bishop Martin,  May 17, 1968

The recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Texas is truly disturbing.  Methodists, and other people of faith should denounce such incidents in every way they can.  It is a good time to recall the cordial relations that have marked Jewish-Methodist relations in Texas.   

First Methodist Church Houston hosted Brotherhood Dinners during the middle decades of the 20th century specifically to combat anti-Jewish sentiments of the Ku Klux Klan and other nativist groups. 

Houston was not the only city where Jewish-Methodist relations flourished.  Rabbi Levi Olan (1903-1983) of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas (1949-1970) lectured at Perkins School of Theology and had an office in Bridwell Library.  Many of Rabbi Olan's materials can be accessed on line from Bridwell's site.

On May 17, 1968 Congregation Beth Israel in Houston dedicated its evening service to Bishop Paul E. Martin.  The Chief Rabbi of the congregation, Dr. Hyman Judah Schachtel, presided at the services. 

A resolution of love and appreciation for Bishop Martin was presented that said in part, 

Be it resolved that the Sabbath evening service of the oldest Jewish Congregation in the state of Texas, Congregation Beth Israel, on May 17, 1968, honor the bishop by presenting this resolution  and by expressing the prayer that God will bless him with many more healthy years of life and meaningful service; and be it further resolved  that a copy of it be entered into the archives of our historic congregation.. . .

Dr. Schachtel (1907-1990) became Senior Rabbi of Beth Israel in 1943 and served in that position to 1975.   He developed a close friendship with Bishop Martin’s predecessor Bishop A. Frank Smith.  He became nationally known when he delivered a prayer at President Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration in January 1965. 
In addition to serving on a variety of community boards and non-profit agencies, Schachtel was famous as an author.  His works include The Real Enjoyment of Living (1954), The Life You Want to Live (1956), The Shadowed Valley ((1962), and How to Meet the Challenge of Life and Death (1980).  He also wrote a column for the Jewish Herald Voice and had a weekly radio program.   He received an honorary doctorate from Southwestern University in 1955.

 Mrs. Schachtel, the former Barbara Levin, was director of the Quality Assurance for the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the Houston Methodist Hospital. 

Dr. Schachtel is often remembered for his aphorism, “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   May 7

1866 General Conference Meets in New Orleans.  Important Changes for Texas  May 1866

Few Methodist General Conferences have been as consequential as the one that met in New Orleans during the first weeks of 1866.  There had been no 1862 General Conference of the MECS so there was much work to do.

Delegates dropped participation in a class meeting as a requirement for church membership and voted to allow lay delegates to conference.  Delegates doubled the number of active bishops from four to eight.  (Bishops Soule and Andrew were still alive but no longer traveled to hold annual conferences.)  One of those newly elected bishops was Enoch Marvin, the first bishop who had served a church in Texas. 

The General Conference divided the both the Texas Conference and the East Texas Conference into northern and southern portions, and created the North West Conference from the northern counties of the Texas Conference and the Trinity (later North Texas) Conference from the East Texas Conference.  It also changed the Rio Grande Mission Conference, making it the West Texas Conference (later South West Texas and later Rio Texas). 

German speaking Methodists in Texas asked for help from the General Conference, but it could offer little more than kind words.  Many of the German preachers then turned to the MEC which had greater resources than the MECS and had a vigorous German language publishing enterprise already in place for its German churches in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri. 

The editor of Houston’s Tri-Weekly Telegram in May, 1866 was the Rev. Clayton C. Gillespie, who had served as a colonel for the Confederacy.  Naturally he gave the General Conference extensive coverage.

He reported on the “ordination” service for the newly elected bishops (Marvin, Wightman, Doggett, and McTyeire).  He should have known better.  In Methodist practice, we consecrate bishops.  They are not ordained.  

The honor of preaching the “ordination” sermon went to one of the oldest preachers there---the Rev. Lovick Pierce (1785-1879), father of Bishop George Pierce, and one of the most beloved Methodist preachers ever.  Pierce had been ordained in 1804 so as he stood in the pulpit at the Candorolet Street Methodist Church, he was in his 62nd year of preaching and was attending his 12th General Conference.   His text was 2 Cor. 11:28, . . .I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Lovick Pierce had a right to be anxious.  The Civil War had weakened many MECS churches and all of their institutions, including publishing and missionary efforts.  African Americans were in the process of leaving the MECS for other denominations including the AME, AMEZ, and the MEC.  

Lovick Pierce lived another 13 years after his “ordination” sermon.   Although he was past 80 years old, he had one more major task to perform for his church.  Some MECS leaders assume that since the cause of separation of the northern and southern branches was slavery, and that slavery was abolished, the two branches might re-unite.  Lovick Pierce was chosen as an emissary from the MECS to the MEC to explore reunion.  He was chosen because of his “irenic” disposition and his sterling reputation.