Saturday, November 25, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History Nov. 26

Fire Sweeps Through SMU Dormitory, November 27, 1917

Texas Methodists created many schools throughout the 19th and early 20th century.  Unfortunately most of those schools failed.  The main reason for closing the schools was debt, but fire and disease sometimes contributed to school failure.   For example, Odessa College, an institution of the Austin Conference of the MEC closed after one session because of a fire.   

SMU opened for instruction in 1915, and while it was still a young institution, President Hyer had to deal with a major dormitory fire.  On Nov. 27, 1917 a fire swept through South Hall.   Fortunately the fire began at noon rather than when the students were sleeping.  Students pitched in to fight the fire and along with the Dallas Fire Department were able to keep the blaze confined to South Hall.  The estimated damage was in excess of $20,000, and classes were not interrupted.
It was also fortunate that there was only one serious injury.  A post graduate student working as associate pastor at City Temple, King Vivion (1896-1969) was seriously injured by a collapsing wall. 
Readers of this column will recognize the name King Vivion who became President of Southwestern University as a thirty-two year old minister.  Vivion recovered from his injury soon enough to enter the ministry.  He was appointed to Bryan so he could start a church to serve the Texas A&M community.   After building that church, he was appointed to First Methodist Galveston (the predecessor of Moody Memorial UMC).  Vivion became SU president in 1928 and continued in that post until 1935 when he became pastor of McKendree Methodist Church in Nashville, TN.  Texas Methodists also remember his younger brother, James Monroe Vivion (1902-1978) for his ministry in the Texas Conference and with the Texas Methodist Foundation. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 19

Newspaper Editor Shames Methodists in Jefferson, Nov. 19, 1869

The following is presented without comment from the Home Advocate, Jefferson, Texas, Nov. 19, 1869.

While Dr. Finley was preaching at the Methodist Church last Sunday, the stillness of the congregation was so perfect that the spiriting and spattering of the tobacco juice sounded as if a hundred little boys were engaged in a squirt gun skirmish—What filthy creatures we Christian are?  When will Purity be able to command a decent regard in sacred places?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History Nov. 12

Industry UMC celebrates its history

Tomorrow, Nov. 12, 2017, Industry UMC will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its church building.  The church itself is even older, dating to before the Civil War, but the church building, built in 1867, still stands and still is used even though the congregation usually worships in a larger, more modern building. 
The 1867 date is significant.  The Industry MECS church, led by its pastor, Carl Biel, left the MECS in December 1866 and joined the MEC.  It was the first of several German Texas Methodist churches to do so.  The members who wished to remain in the MECS retained title to the building so a new church was necessary.  That is why Industry UMC is celebrating the 150 anniversary of its building tomorrow. 
I was asked to participate in the celebration.  Here are part of the remarks I intend to give. 

The 1870 Conference Journal shows what I think is a remarkable testimony to the zeal with which the Industry Methodists had for their church.   The number of German churches has increased.  Now there are churches in Victoria, Llano, Bastrop, Millheim, Columbus, and Brenham.  Industry reported 62 members, 10 probationers, a church building valued at $1850 and a parsonage valued at $1000.   That parsonage is the ONLY parsonage listed for any church in the entire conference.  (remember that the rest of the conference consists of recently enslaved African Americans).   You are, no doubt, aware of our system of benevolences and apportionments since we still have them.  In 1870 the benevolences churches were expected to support were Missionaries, Mission Sunday Schools, church extension (that’s helping fund new church construction), Tract Society (publishing and distributing religious literature), the American Bible Society, and the American Sunday School Union.  The church at Industry gave $62.50 for missions—$1 per member plus 50 cents.  That $62.50 was the largest contribution of any church in the conference.  There are churches today that don’t pay $1/member for some of the benevolences.  Its $10.50 was the only contribution to Mission Sunday Schools of any church in the Conference. Its $23.25 was the largest amount paid to the Board of Church Extension of any church in the conference.  It also contributed to the Tract Society and the Sunday School Union---the only church in the entire conference that paid its apportionments. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   November 5

 James Burke Informs Readers that Methodist Sunday School is Just Fine with the American Sunday School Union, Nov. 6, 1847

James Burke (?-1880) was popularly known as “Sunday School Man.” He was born in Edgefield District, SC, spent his childhood in Tennessee, and in `1837 moved from Natchez to San Augustine, Texas.  He was a Cumberland Presbyterian, clerk of the 2nd Congress of the Republic of Texas, a member of the Santa Fe Expedition, a journalist and participant many worthy, humanitarian causes.
He was best known as the Texas Agent for the American Sunday School Union, and it was in that capacity that he responded to the founding of a Methodist Sunday School by Orceneth Fisher in Houston.
Instead of displaying jealousy for a competing Sunday School, Burke heaped praise on the Methodist effort.
In the Republic of Texas most churches were points on a circuit and most Sunday Schools were Union rather than denominational.  Very few Presbyterians or Methodists had preaching by one of their own denomination every Sunday.  Many churches shared the pulpit, and also the Sunday School, with a pastor of whatever denomination happened to be in town that Sunday.   The American Sunday School Union had been formed in Philadelphia in 1824 to supply Sunday School literature devoid of denominational slant that could be used in the Union Sunday Schools.

The Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church, South, also published Sunday School literature, and the proceeds from the sale of that literature was devoted to supporting the itinerate ministers who also often acted as sales people for the literature. 
Whenever a city became large enough to move from circuit to station status, it usually withdrew from the Union Sunday School and created Methodist Sunday School.  The Methodists in Houston finally gained enough members in October, 1847 to form their own Sunday School under Rev. Orceneth Fisher.  They withdrew from the Union Sunday School they had been attending.
Burke, instead of resenting the defection of the Methodists from the Union Sunday School in Houston, rejoiced that the event was occurring.  He said, in effect, that there was plenty of work for all Christians in teaching the Gospel.