Saturday, July 15, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 16

St. John’s Houston Cornerstone Laid, July 16, 1917
On Monday, July 17, 1917,  Presiding Elder, R. W. Adams of the Houston District, led the service of cornerstone laying at St. John’s Methodist Church in downtown Houston.   A worship service preceded the ceremony.  Speakers at the service included O. E. Goddard, pastor of First Methodist Galveston and the editors of both the Houston Post and Houston Chronicle.  

The pastor of St. John’s was the Rev. John E. Green, and this was, remarkably, the fourth church he had built in Houston.  The Rev. Green was what we would call today “a second-career preacher.”  He was a locomotive engineer when he received the call to preach and felt a keen sense of brotherhood with railroad employees all his life.  After serving rural churches, he moved to Houston to pastor the “railroad” church, Washington Avenue.     

In doing so, he was participating in a common trend.  As Texas cities grew and required more Methodist churches, the second one built was often built in a neighborhood inhabited by railroad employees.  To take a larger perspective, Methodism was in the process of separating itself by class.  The “railroad” churches appealed to the working class more than the professionals.   Other cities such as Tyler, Paris, Texarkana, and Palestine all owe their second church to the railroads.

The early 20th century witnessed a boom in Houston’s population that is still in progress.  Because of its excellent rail network (Its city motto was “Where 17 Railroads Meet the Sea.”) it had a leg up on its competitors to become the center of the new petroleum industry.  The storm of 1900 eliminated Galveston as a serious rival as the main city of the Texas Coastal Plain.  The stream of new arrivals needed Methodist churches so from 1900-1910 the Texas Conference planted churches at a fantastic rate.  Some of them such as St. Paul’s and Grace, continue, but several of them were built near the Ship Channel and have since closed.    John E. Green was front and center in this church planting and described it in his memoir, John E. Green and His Forty Years in Houston (1928).  

Although this event occurred 100 years ago, Rev. Goddard’s message resonates today.
He said this church and every Methodist Church should be founded on 4 principles:
·        A true conception of God
·        An aggressive evangelism
·        Holy and scriptural living
·        Active missionary policy

St. John’s continues with its special ministries serving the whole community, including the homeless who are often ignored.


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