Saturday, January 05, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  January 6

Pastor Whipple Publishes Annual Sunday School Report for Houston, January 9, 1845

We have devoted several columns to the difficult travel conditions faced by Methodist Circuit Riders, Presiding Elders, and Bishops during the Republic Era.  There is an often overlooked corollary to that story of privation and sacrifice.  While the clergy were facing such difficulties, laity were keeping the church together during the extended absences of the clergy.   

Methodism during the Republic Era was structured to give considerable power and responsibility to laity.  The class leader was probably the most responsible lay official, but the stewards, Sunday School Superintendent, and Sunday School teachers were also important.  When mandatory membership in a class was abandoned, the Sunday School Superintendent became the most important lay leadership position in a congregation.

On January 9, 1845, Rev. J. W. Whipple of the Houston’s MEC church printed the annual report of the Sunday School in the Houston Telegraph and Texas Register.  Here is an edited version.

The School was opened the second day of April eighteen hundred and forty-three, under the auspices of the Rev. T. O. Summers as Superintendent, and S. J,. Wood, Esq, as Secretary and Librarian, with 4 teachers, viz, 3 male and 1 female and with 16 scholars, viz,  9 male and 7 female.  This being the first Sunday School organized by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Houston.  It gradually increased for the first three-quarters of the year.  But for some time after, the institution languished, on account of the absence of the Pastor. 

But through the on going industry of the Acting Superintendent, S. J. R. Wood, Esq., the school was kept up and rapidly increased in number.

On the first of June, 1841, there was a new organization of the School under the direction of Rev. J W. Whipple.  When it was found, there were 15 teachers, viz., 8 male and 7 female.  69 scholars, 40 male and 29 female. 
. . . much credit is due the officers and teachers of the School for the energy and persistence which they have shown in persecuting the interest of the cause.   

Of particular interest is Whipple’s mentioning that the Sunday School languished on account of the absence of the pastor, Rev. T. O. Summers.   The absence was more than the consequence of having two churches although Summers did divide his time between Galveston the Houston.  The really long absence was due to his fund raising trip back to the United States.  Summers had transferred from the Baltimore Conference so he decided to return there to raise money for Galveston and Houston.  He made the trip overland which meant he was gone months instead of weeks. 
Summers was able to secure a generous donation from William Ryland, Chaplain of the U. S. House of Representatives.  That was the origin of Ryland Chapel in Galveston.  He also secured some donations for Houston. 


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