Generations of Faithful Celebrate Church's Centennial

by | Dec 1, 2009 | Features

Story by Jeannie Stone

The Plainview United Methodist Church, located in downtown Plainview, celebrated its 100th anniversary in October with 150 members and friends supping together and swapping stories under a large canopy tent. Many guests traveled from far-away states to testify on the spiritual influence the small church played in their lives. 

A strong bond unites present generations to their ancestors. Stories abound among the venerated pews and polished railings. Some are reflected in the gleaming windows surrounding the sanctuary, each depicting a Bible story and, when viewed in sequential order, tell the story of the Bible in pictures.
Historical booklets, composed by the current congregation, offer excerpts of photos, letters, ledgers and newspaper clippings painting a picture of the birthing of the town of Plainview as well as the church.
“I especially liked reading the first historical account included in the book,” member Pat Bailey said. Written in 1920, the account records the land gift where the church is located. “It describes how the town came to be,” she said, “and how all the local churches were formed.”
Another, more recent account, is also included in the book. It is a perspective logged in the 1980s and updates the growth of the community and the church’s lineages.
The town was incorporated in 1907, and the Methodist congregation formed in 1909. The white frame church, built by volunteers and the Ft. Smith Lumber Company construction crew, was completed in 1911.
The sanctuary was built to accommodate 200 worshippers. The same curved pews, originally purchased through the Sears, Roebuck and Company on the installment plan, are in use today. Cushions were added in the 1970s.
The 12 ft. walnut front doors leading to the church were donated by Nan Smith of the Ricker Family.

“She was always so generous to this church,” Bailey said.
Although the church was remodeled in 1955, the original structure is still intact.
“We save every piece of everything that falls off,” Bailey said, “because you can’t find this stuff anymore.” She refers to the wall board and other architectural features.
A history of the church’s accruements was typed by former church member Georgia Parker before her death in 1990. It is available and directs guests to particular points of interest. It also lists former parishioners who are memorialized through such gifts as windows, choir chairs, an organ and the altar cross.

Long-time member Sharon Hamilton is currently writing a book on the history of the town and is including the church’s history as well.
“Back then this church was the center of the community. Even today, the congregation celebrates its joys and sorrows within these walls, she said.
One of the more spectacular features of the church is the 16 colorful stained glass windows which were the pet project of Mrs. Kathleen Strickland Bell. The dedicated windows bear the story of the Bible, and former pastor Ed Kerr developed the habit of sharing the story as part of his sermon much to the delight of the congregation.
The first window depicts a down-stretched hand and represents the separation of water and land. Trees are beginning to populate the earth. This window represents day four of the creation story (Genesis 1:14-19).

The second window reveals Noah and his family and all the animals in the ark which is resting on dry land. A rainbow symbolizing God’s promise never again to destroy the earth with water shines in the sky.
A burning bush is featured in the third window reminding us of the story of Moses and his charge to travel to Egypt and release God’s people from slavery.
The next window represents the Ten Commandments. Kerr would gently quiz the children on the commandments and discuss the importance of rules.
“The whole world would be a nicer place to live if only everyone would follow the rules,” Parker wrote.

The following window details The Nativity, complete with shining star. Kerr would tell of the three kings and the fact that Baby Jesus, son of God, was born into poverty.
An angel glows from the next window. Kerr would enumerate the appearance of angels in the Bible and always included the angels who participated in the story of the nativity.
“Many of the announcements concerning the birth of Jesus were sent by God with the message, ‘fear not,’” Parker wrote.
The next window bears the image of a cross in front of flames. Kerr would ask the children what they thought the flames represented. He explained that they represented fire, zeal and purification, and were also the official symbol of the United Methodist Church.
The last windows depict the gifts brought by the Three Kings, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, and the Holy Bible.

The historical account describes the early church and its services and revivals with attendance records and a full list of pastors who have served the congregation.

Originally, the building was heated by a coal burning, pot-bellied stove which sat in the rear of the sanctuary, and windows were raised in the heat of the summer. The only way to keep cool was to use the complimentary hand fans furnished by the funeral homes in town. That all changed in the 1950s when the church converted to gas for heating and window units were installed for cooling.
Lighting came to the community in 1919 when a Delco light plant, which provided light to the parsonage and church, was installed for $505. By 1920 the furnished church was valued at $2,000. The parsonage was valued at $1,200, and the furniture within a total of $164. The pastor’s salary was $1,008 per quarter.
The church boasts a growing collection of commemorative plates from Methodist churches far and near.
“A lot of folks come back to their roots for retirement,” Bailey said, “and they bring a plate from the home church, and we display them. To commemorate the centennial we commissioned our own plate. They are available for $15.”

Current members of the congregation are willing to tell a few of their own stories. Bailey remembers an incident that was so shocking it literally rendered her speechless.
“Right before the service one Sunday a skunk slithered down a floor vent,” she said. “I was so shocked I couldn’t even get the word ‘skunk’ out of my throat.” There are now vent covers to protect from unwanted varmints in the building as they tend to wander under the foundation, particularly during the cold months.
“Oh, the stories this old church can tell,” she said. Some of those stories were told at the celebration.
“It was so good to see the variety of people who came out of that church. So many people gave testimonies, from doctors to lawyers and everything in between, about how important it was to them to receive the basics in those pews,” Bailey said.
The church’s work is not over. Adults and children continue to be nourished by the Biblical truths and fellowship at Plainview Methodist Church, and the public is invited to the annual Community Candlelight Service at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20.

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