Fortunately, we do not have to wait on the Hobble telescope to view fascinating bits of history. The gentlemen who decided the turns and twists of the Walnut River would make a excellent townsite had a keen sense of destiny.
Methodist pioneers were quick to respond and came to town almost as soon as it was plotted. Fifteen years later they established a college which fostered a community around it which was a bit far from the Methodist Church in town center. Not everyone had horses and buggies so a Sunday School was started in a home at Fourth and Michigan Streets, however, growth was so rapid, it quickly moved to the upstairs room of a store building on College Street. Thus a second Methodist Church was established in 1888 with Rev. E.H. Vaughan as pastor. A name was not so easy to decided. Grace Methodist Episcopal Church became a reality. Continued growth necessitated the move into Southwestern’s North Hall almost as soon as it was completed and it continued there for more than ten years.
The Rev. Jessee Roberts led the congregation in the construction of a building at Fourth and College on a lot that cost $4.00 in 1903. Expansion was needed in 1910.
The cry of FIRE! disrupted Prayer Meeting on the night of October 10, 1917. The city water pressure mandated a total loss. Even though it was “wartime,” the congregation moved quickly and the present sanctuary was erected and completed in 1919 at a cost of $56,000.
Dr. I.D. Harris became pastor in 1919 and one thousand conversions brought new life to the congregation during his seven year pastorate. The present parsonage was erected during his tenure. Southwestern students would sometimes attend special services en masse. It was also during these years that both Grace Church and Southwestern College became involved in the great Debate on Evolution because of Dr. Goldsmith who was a member of Grace and of the faculty of Southwestern.
Thirty-five pastors have served Grace Church in its 102 years. It has maintained a close relationship with the college. Members of the faculty have served a multitude of ways including as pastor and choir director. The response of students has varied from year to year. In the current years many students return home over the weekend.
The congregation carried out a part of its social ministry by providing a social club. THE BLACK EYE, for the college students for a number of years and brought the WINFIELD CHILD CARE CENTER into being and nurtured it for several years until it was able to move to its own home. They have been the COMMUNITY FOOD PANTRY for more than 10 years. Other churches and community organizations bring food supplies and money which are disbursed to needy persons through the church five mornings a week.
One of the primary expressions of our faith is through music. The Good Lord has blessed us with many excellent musicians both with voice and instruments through the years.
The congregation has taken seriously the membership vow which says, “The Church is God...” The members are conscious of their vow “to be loyal to the United Methodist Church and uphold it by their prayers, their gifts and their service.”
The present pastor is David Broddle who is concluding his third year at this writing.
Submitted by Vern D. Livengood
Email corrections and submissions to Steve ruggles
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