Wheatland UMC, Dallas Celebration 'like no other' marks 160 years
With Rev. Kay Hord, pastor of Wheatland UMC, pictured at left, Dallas South District uperintendent Rev. Milton Guttierrez conducted the Charge Conference in a rented tent at Wheatland UMC's 160th anniversary celebration.
Jan Cavender, left, and Laura Fannin sing an original song, "160 Years and 2007 in Review" accompanied by their washboards at Wheatland UMC's 160th anniversary celebration and Charge Conference.
BY JOHN A. LOVELACE
When you're 160 years old, up there in Abrahamic range, you can celebrate your decennial anniversaries just about any way you want to.
Wheatland UMC, down a gravel lane on Dallas' south side, bills itself as "the country church in the city." And it celebrated its latest anniversary on Oct. 28 like no other, with a Sunday morning worship service, a mid-afternoon fried chicken dinner served and consumed in a tent on the spacious front lawn, and in between --- guess what? --- a Charge Conference.
Kathy Priester, a sparkplug laywoman, laughed as she told the visiting journalist, "Kay (Rev. Kay Hord, in her ninth she said, 'OK, you do it.'" year at Wheatland) said we Actually a 24-member didn't need to do anything 160th anniversary committee, special for our 160th. I said larger than the church's total 'Yes, we do, every 10th year membership not too many anniversary is important,' and years ago, "did it" with both Priester and Pastor Kay fully on board.
The morning worship service's opening prayer signaled the day's theme as the congregation in unison addressed the "God of history, whose Word is alive in us... " Minutes later, layman Paul Foreman presented "moments in history," no small chore when the span is 1847-2007.
Next the congregation read aloud responsively "The World Methodist Social Affirmation," a historic document in its own right, followed by Rev. Hord's sermon titled "Proud to Be a Methodist!" A printed outline tracked her from Psalm 24:1a to Micah 6:8 to Matthew 25:42-43, 45, and Matthew 5:13a, 14a, 16. Amidst the scriptures she highlighted the Methodist social gospel.
Holy Communion concluded the service, reinforced by a congregational sing-along of such hymns as "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand" and "There's Within My Heart a Melody."
A two-page printed insert in the worship bulletin listed some 50 donations of chrysanthemums adorning the property on this anniversary day. The donations were about evenly divided between "in honor of" and “in memory of."
Between the end of worship and the 2:15 p.m. start of Charge Conference, worker bees made ready for the 4:00 p.m. anniversary party. The 160th anniversary had gained wide attention through a feature story and photograph in the previous week's Dallas Morning News. One result was that a good number of non-members, anticipating a celebration, attended Charge Conference.
Dallas South District Superintendent Rev. Milton Guttierrez, never anyone's stick in the mud, presided energetically over Charge Conference with Rev. Hord at his near right hand and the all-purpose Ms. Priester as secretary. Superintendent Guttierrez complimented Wheatland UMC for having already paid its 2007 apportionments in full and $2,000 "second mile" giving. Other financial highlights mentioned were an $80,000 capital funds campaign completed four years ago and an in-progress campaign for $100,000.
Two women of a certain age wearing rubber halos accompanied themselves with washboard thumpings as they "sang" highlights of "160 years and 2007 in review."
Two small groups received special recognition. First were "the loyal few," a half-dozen members or so who refused to let the church die." Next were the "Circuit Riders," laypeople from Lovers Lane UMC led by their then-associate pastor Rev. Tom Peel who faithfully traveled south for several months to keep worship services alive at Wheatland.
You knew you were in a historic church when one person explained the holes in the wall of the church’s vestibule. They, it was explained, were from gun racks on which cowboys left their guns before entering to worship in the Wheatland Methodist of an earlier era.
Wheatland members served chicken, beans, slaw and other trimmings to a large turnout under the tent. Entertainment was by the East Texas gospel duo of Janet Griffin and Jerry Glass. He was a Wheatland member 1952-60.
For a church with such a long history, Wheatland had worked hard recently to adopt a purposefully short mission statement: "Our Mission: Serve God in Faith, Fellowship & Outreach."
For more information, visit www.wheatland umc.org or e-mail Rev. Kay Hord kay.hord@ att.net.