I just spent 30 minutes over at the MacFarlin Library combing through a Microfilm roll of the Tulsa Daily World from 101 years ago this week. I had been pointed there by our dear departed sister in faith, Hila B. Church, who wrote the 50th anniversary history of our church in June of 1973. She spilled just enough details about the “church that was built in a day,” that I just had to go see if I could find some more information about the East Tulsa Methodist Church, (3rd and Trenton), which merged with University Methodist in 1928. At dusk on September 26, 1911, says the article, “twenty-seven begrimed, perspiring, and worn out men—lawyers, merchants, preachers, professional men and others—laid off work, and admiringly surveyed the result of their day’s effort—a substantial frame church edifice, built in a day and ready for service.” Later in the day, the women of the congregation “set out a long table with a tempting array of eatables, and the manner in which the erstwhile carpenters ‘went after the grub,’ reminded one of a farm dinner at threshing time.” I would imagine so! All this construction was done while the pastor was away on vacation as a surprise. Hallelujah!
Hila Church gives other details that must have been transmitted through members of the congregation and not recorded by the newspaperman. She gives the backstory:
Nov. 5, 1910, the Society at Midway incorporated as “The East Tulsa Methodist Episcopal Church.” The trustees were FJ Davisson, MM Holmes, JR Doolittle, EAB Wells, BF Starr and WT Jones. A “Ladies’ Aid Society was formed which became very active. Cottage prayer meetings were kept up faithfully, weekly, all year. A motto was adopted: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” (pastor’s note: that’s a quote from John Wesley).
It was an enthusiastic and growing congregation until the heat and dryness of the summer of 1911. A lot was purchased, but the droughty conditions and short crops of 1911 discouraged the raising of moneys and the making of plans for building the church home. When the Tulsa Public Schools began the school year in September, 1911 (The church met in Lynch-Forsythe School), the Rev. Magee was in Iowa on vacation, attending the Upper Iowa Conference. The rapid growth in student enrollment at Lynch-Forsythe School necessitated the use of all the rooms in the school building. Without notifying the church, the school officials moved the pews, musical instruments, songbooks to corridors in the basement. (Pastor’s Note: I had suspicions about the denominational affiliation of the school principal 🙂 but I checked into it, and from what I can find, Ray Stanley Fellows was principal at the time, and was a graduate of DePauw University–a Methodist school!) This was a shock to the congregation, especially with the pastor out of town. But, as so often happens, an unexpected disaster suddenly works for good. The sudden shock of no meeting place aroused the congregation and created a determination to have their own building in which to hold services.
In the absence of the pastor, the pastor’s wife, assisted by their sons, Carl C. and Percival E Magee, took prime steps. Rev. Frank Neff, pastor of First M.E., and District Superintendent C.R. Robinson became “cheiftans,” and with a determined congregation and friends, 27 men built a 24′ x 40′ church structure between the hours of 8am and 6pm.
I relay this inspiring bit of our history as an invitation—not to build a church in a day while I am on vacation in October–but to participate in the ongoing “building project” that is still happening in our 90th year of ministry here at University UMC. No–we’re not launching a “bricks and mortar” campaign–we’re simply continuing the “upbuiling of the body of Christ” here through the contribution of our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.
As such, we are “living stones, built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2) where the architecture is inspiring, the confines are warm and friendly, and the door is open! Our pledge campaign to resource our 90th year of ministry here at 5th and College is getting kicked off this October with the theme “Standing on the Promises,” in which our members and friends will be invited to “pitch in” much like those 27 men did on Sept. 26 of 1911. Except we are contributing to a project that has a long and rich heritage, and will continue for as long as we can run the race! I invite you between now All Saint’s Sunday to join me in making your pledge of prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to the “building plan” for UUMC in 2013. Details to follow.