Centennial Celebration in Baytown on Sunday

Date Posted: 9/26/2013

Bishop Huie will preach from the pulpit on the historic Centennial Celebration day in the life of St. John’s United Methodist Church of Baytown, Texas. The church is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding on Sunday, September 29, 2013 accompanied by many former pastors, as well as many current and past members. Following the worship service there will be a luncheon and program in the gymnasium.

According to Centennial Celebration Chair Robert Francis, St. John’s began as a Sunday school Mission by Cedar Bayou Methodist Church in 1913 when the church was located in a one-room unfinished schoolhouse on the bank of Tabbs Bay near the Goose Creek oilfield. “The Mission, as it was known, ministered to the roughnecks and their families who lived and worked there,” he shares. “At this time the Mission was called a branch Sunday School of Cedar Bayou Methodist, and services were held on Sunday afternoons whenever a circuit-riding minister could attend.”

A well being drilled near the Mission “blew in,” spraying oil all over the little building, which caused it to be abandoned. A small portable one-room house was donated, and the Mission was moved to Newtown, one of the numerous “boomtowns” that sprang up. It was the first church in the area and was named the First Methodist Church.

By 1918, the church was outgrowing its one-room size, and plans were in the making to build a larger church. Mrs. F. T. Pelly had given $350 to buy a lot for the new church on the corner of what became Bolster and Thibodeaux Streets. Rev. John W. Wardlow was pastor at this time, and Rev. Erwin Jackson became pastor when the new building was finished in 1921. The church became known as First Methodist of Pelly, Texas. Through the efforts of the churchwomen who sold baked goods, picked cotton, and drove miles and miles collecting a dollar or less at each stop, money was raised to pay the church expenses and the church expanded dramatically.

Rev. James Heflin, 1945-1947, challenged the membership to build a new church, so 11 men gave $100 each to purchase three lots, and the Galveston District of the Methodist Church aided with the purchase of two more pieces of land located on Highway 146. The new church was started on May 13, 1949, while Rev. Archie Fleming was the church pastor. On October 1, 1949, a hurricane demolished the unfinished structure. Undaunted, the congregation began the construction again on November 1, in preparation for the first service on Palm Sunday, April 2, 1950. The old church bell was included in a new steeple. In 1949, the name was changed to St. John’s Methodist Church, and the dedication service was held the evening of April 4, 1950, conducted by Dr. D. L. Landrum, Superintendent of the Galveston District of the Methodist Church.

Adds Robert, “Many changes have taken place in Baytown, Goose Creek, and Pelly since 1913, but the little Mission that became a church has remained a constant beacon and source of God’s love. Reverend Beverly Woodard is the current pastor and, under her leadership, the church continues to minister to the community and will do so for another Centennial to come.”