Celebrating 175 Years of Methodism in Palestine

Celebrating 175 Years of Methodism in Palestine.

FUMC Palestine pays tribute to rich history

PALESTINE — Special events are planned Sept. 10-11 at First United Methodist Church of Palestine for the church’s Demisemiseptcentennial — celebrating 175 years of Methodism in Palestine and 100 years at its current location at 422 S. Magnolia St. in Palestine.

A s early as 1840, a Methodist Society was organized by John Wilson, a Crockett Mission supply pastor. These meetings were held at the home of Roland W. Box who lived near Fort Houston.
On July 13, 1846, Palestine was designated Anderson County seat and most of the Fort Houston settlers, including the Methodist Society, moved to the new town.

The Methodist church was the first to erect a building. It was located on what is now 812 North Mallard St.. In December 1847, the Palestine Circuit was created with Henderson D. Palmer as its first rider. Three years later the church was given the name Bascom Chapel in honor of the late Bishop Henry B. Bascom. The church served numerous congregations in the community for many years as Palestine’s sole house of worship.

Centenary 1884

In 1884, the Methodists built a new church named Centenary Church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of American Methodism. Centenary Church was a wooden structure with a tall steeple and was located near the intersection of Avenue A and North Mallard. The cornerstone of Centenary Church is now in the north wall of the sanctuary.

The present Gothic-style church was built in 1910 under the pastoral leadership of Dr. James Kilgore. It was formally dedicated as First Methodist Church on Sept. 3, 1911.

In 1968 when the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church united and became the United Methodist Church, the name was changed to First United Methodist Church.

First United Methodist Church

Over the years, many improvements and changes were made. The sanctuary was remodeled in 1952 and a brick Children’s Building was built north of the sanctuary. A former residence across the street from the church was converted into a youth building. An elevator was installed in the church and additional parking space was provided. In 1986, the Carroll Building was erected.

In 1990, the church embarked on the “Room to Grow” campaign, resulting in a new fellowship hall, reconstruction of the old fellowship hall into a parlor and office space, remodeling projects in existing buildings, and a playground for the children.

In 1999, the church began a new campaign, this time an extensive renovation and modernization of the Children’s Building. The newly renovated Children’s Building was dedicated as the Jiles B. Upton Children’s Building on February 17, 2002.

The chancel area was once in the Northeast corner of the Sanctuary near the doors by the current wheelchair ramp and prayer room

The sanctuary, the third oldest in Palestine, is an architectural treasure. Its priceless stained glass windows reflect beauty, dignity and reverence. We began a campaign to “Restore the Glory” to our sanctuary in May, 2006. During the restoration, the church offices were moved to the lower level where a library and a bride’s room were added and the parlor and kitchen were updated. On the main level, restrooms were added and the choir practice room was included. The sanctuary provides an open atmosphere and modern technology. A new entrance with ramp was added on the north between the Children’s Building and the Sanctuary and other entrances were reworked.

On Sept.16, 2007, the first service was held in the newly restored Sanctuary.


• Laura and Stephen Bates — We’re a family here, and that’s one reason why we love our church so much. collecting, we are grateful for their recording the names and deeds that

• Pat Copeland — I was born in Palestine in 1933. I graduated from this church kindergarten. I grew up in this church and taught a Sunday school class when I was eighteen. Carol Logan was one of my students. Bill and I were married here in 1954.

Youth group was called MYF in my day. We met downstairs where the parlor is now. The poles were there, but the floors were not carpeted. Our youth leader, Billy Webb, liked to sing. We sat in chairs in a circle, sang songs, told stories, and played games. Mrs. Cleo Willingham was the adult leader in charge. She was also our math teacher at school. As my friend, Jeanette Gates (Redwine), and I would leave to go up the stairs to Sunday night services, she would always say, “Did you girls get your homework done?”

I can remember going to Lakeview Camp. We stayed in screened-in porches. My mother’s Sunday school class, Grace Bible class, usually paid for my camp tuition. Every night at camp we had a devotional by the lake as the sun was setting.

You could see the sun reflecting on the water. It was very nice.

I don’t know when the Bereavement Committee first began as a committee, but church members have always pitched in and helped bring food to grieving families of the church, or served them at the church. Pat Anderson and I have been in charge of the Bereavement Committee for a long time, and will continue as long as we can.

• Martha Surles, 86 — As a child of two, I often went with my aunt Johnnie Cutter, to services at First United Methodist Church, where we would sit in the balcony. At that time, the balcony was built around the south side of the church where the stained glass windows are, as well as at the back.

For a young child, it was a wondrous thing to be up high like that and to look down on the sanctuary.

• Sara Nell Bible — I was born and raised in this Methodist Church. We went to church services Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evenings. At those Wednesday evening services, we sang the old songs that I love, from the Cokesbury hymnal, had a prayer and a message from the pastor. We had no air-conditioner, just the fans with the wooden handles. I really loved to fan! But the singing was the most important thing to me, because my daddy loved to sing, and I loved to hear him sing.

I was about ten or twelve when I joined the church and was baptized. It was in the old church sanctuary when the west balcony extended around the south wall, too. My Sunday school class was behind the pulpit area with rolling doors that separated that area from the congregation. We always gathered and sang before Sunday school started.

I always went to MYF youth activities. If I went to a movie or on a date on Sunday afternoon, I had to be back for MYF. Our leader was Billy Webb. The youth of other churches would meet with our group and listen to him preach.

I remember being close to the Lord as a teenager. I enjoyed going to church and seeing my friends. Bill and I were married here at First United Methodist Church by the Reverend Morris House, who was here recently to baptize his great-granddaughter.

One other thing I would like to mention is that the piano in the sanctuary was given by Mr. and Mrs. W. O. Logan, in memory of their daughter, Nell, who died at the age of thirty-one. Nell was my good friend, and we grew up going to church together. She was in our wedding.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Historical information excerpted from First United Methodist Church of Palestine’s commemorative historical booklet published specifically for the church’s Demisemiseptcentennial was used for this article. The booklet will be available at the church during the celebration.

“We will have an old-fashioned ice cream social and open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 10) with docent-guided tours of our historic church and video presentations along the tour,” FUMC pastor, the Rev. Bruce Hay said Thursday. “It’s a come-and-go event. We’ve invited a lot of former pastors, Methodist superintendents and former members and we’re hoping a lot of former pastors attend this activity since they have their own churches to attend to on Sunday.”

Tours will include all of the facilities on the campus and will start in the fellowship hall, where a hospitality table will be set up.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year. We are very enthusiastic and excited,” Hay said.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, the celebration will continue with special worship services.

“We will start at 9:45 a.m. with hospitality and coffee in the prayer garden, then a group picture at 10 a.m. inside the church for everybody in attendance — members, former members and guests,” Hay said.

The worship service will start at 11 a.m. and will include proclamations from the City of Palestine and Anderson County. Guest speaker will be the Rev. Carroll Fancher, who served FUMC Palestine from 1968 to 1972. Sandra Smith, superintendent of the Northwest Methodist District of the Texas Annual Conference, also will be present.

Accommodations for extra seating has been arranged for the service. Additional parking will be available at Bailey & Foster Funeral Home, 207 S. Magnolia St.

After the worship service, a free covered dish luncheon will be held in the fellowship hall and everyone in attendance is invited.

A commemorative historical booklet celebrating the church’s Demisemiseptcentennial will be available as well as a special DVD featuring short dramatic vignettes that tell the history of the church.

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