Rector Methodists to Mark 100 Year Anniversary of Building

Thursday, August 18, 2016
The First United Methodist Church of Rector is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the sanctuary building this Sunday. The beautiful structure is part of the designated Historic District of Downtown Rector. (TD photo/Ron Kemp)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the construction of one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Rector.

The sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church, located at the corner of Third and Dodd, was built in 1916 to serve a growing congregation in the relatively-new community.

The congregation will recognize 100 years of church history this Sunday with a special service at the 10:50 morning worship. Special speakers and music will be featured and the church will hold a luncheon after the services. Rev. Mace Straubel has been pastor of the church since 2010.

Members of all ages will be participating this Sunday in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the construction of the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church. The church has special t-shirts for the event. Among those who will be there are, from left: Front -- Maggie Rabjohn and Adam Holmes. Back -- Cooper Rabjohn, Evan Holmes and Emma Holmes. Parents are Matt and Sara Rabjohn and Chad and Christin Holmes. (TD photo/Ron Kemp)

The stately brick sanctuary with its imposing dome and beautiful stained glass windows, part of the Historic District of Downtown Rector, replaced a frame building that was constructed in 1892 on what is now local school property.

Church history notes that on a wintry day in 1913, the pastor, Rev. C.H. Reves, contracted a cold while preaching in the poorly-heated church building. The cold developed into pneumonia, a very serious illness at the time.

Those circumstances led the Ladies Aid organization of the church to begin a fund-raising drive that ultimately resulted in the construction of the new building. The women participated in quilting, sewing, mending feed sacks and shucking corn, sometimes making as little as 50 cents in a single afternoon.

The present-day property was purchased in 1913 for $1,200 from Dr. and Mrs. W.H. Simmons. The Ladies Aid provided $500 and the official church board another $500. The church took out a note for the balance, signed by Joe Harper, president of the board and charter member of the church at Scatterville, and Mrs. D.J. King, Ladies Aid president.

The building program was begun, under the leadership of the pastor, Rev. Frank Jernigan.

Some members suggested constructing a basement area under the sanctuary, but that was not done at the time. The growing church later saw the need for more room and added the basement, dug out a shovelful of dirt at a time, in 1948.

Rev. Jernigan was still the pastor when the sanctuary was completed in 1916 and his first sermon in the new building was entitled "I Proposed to

Build a House to the Lord my God."

A report from the current celebration chairman, Betty Essman, notes verbal history indicates Robert Donald Hailey was the first baby baptized in the new sanctuary. "This sounds reasonable," Essman said, "as he was born May 16, 1916."

Rev. J.M. Harrison became the first full-time pastor of the church in 1917. He arrived by train on a cold and snowy Saturday night and preached his first sermon the next morning.

With all indebtedness paid, Bishop Boaz dedicated the church in June, 1927.

Of the beautiful new home for the church, Mrs. King said, "We had a time paying for the building and sometimes became discouraged. Some felt they had to carry more than their share. We felt that 'our part' was to do all we could. You see in the building the work of those who did not seek to build a name for themselves, but rather they were building to the glory and honor of God. The torch is handed down to the younger people. May they stand, everyone, in their place around the camp."

Essman said it has been fascinating learning details about church history, such as the fact that the flags in the sanctuary are in memory of Capt. Winston Robinson, a helicopter pilot killed in action in Vietnam.

"I feel the members have definitely taken pride in how beautiful the building is," Essman said, "with details such as the remarkable stained glass windows.

"People remember all the happy times that have taken place in the years the building has stood, such as weddings, baptisms and confirmations. And people also think back on the celebrations of the lives of those who have passed on."

Essman said a presentation of historical slides will be enjoyed at the luncheon this Sunday. The slides also will be shown during a reception at the family life center on the Sunday before Labor Day, when past members and friends will be visiting.

In addition to the main sanctuary, two other significant buildings have been added over the years on the church property.

The education building was completed in 1961 at a cost of $65,000. Rev. Charles Casteel was pastor when the building project began. The indebtedness was retired in January, 1966, with Rev. B.W. Stallcup in charge of the dedicatory service.

The idea for a new Wesley Hall family life center began in 2004 with a group of church women whose Bible study series challenged individuals to move forward with faith in seeking ways to share God's love.

Rev. Larry Martineau was pastor as the plans for the new building began. Chris Hartsfield of Little Rock, son-in-law of Kelly and Rheba Scobey, was architect for the project. The building is handicapped-accessible and joins the education building. It has a large multi-purpose room, large kitchen, stage, two classrooms and two restrooms. A focus of the building is a beautiful stained glass window on the east wall, provided by the family in memory of former pastor Rev. B.W. Stallcup.

Significant funding for the project came from selling farmland, donated to the church by the Edwin Williamson family. Through the gifts of church members, the family life center has been paid off.

Both the education building and the new family life center tie in beautifully and seamlessly with the sanctuary, which has continued to stand gracefully for more than a century. It has magnificently served its original purpose envisioned by those early church members and promises to continue in that tradition for years to come. As the church history says of the sanctuary -- "May we and those who follow us always remember this is God's House, may we serve Him long and well."

Here is a list of pastors who have served the Rector First United Methodist Church in past 100 years:

1917 -- J.M. Harrison

1920 -- A.W. O'Bryant

1921 -- M.S. Horne

1922 -- S.G. Watson

1925 -- C.E. Gray

1927 -- R.T. Cribb

1929 -- H.O. Bolin

1932 -- S.G. Watson

1936 -- G.C. Taylor

1942 -- J.H. Hoggard

1944 -- Martin Bierbaum

1946 -- J.J. Decker

1950 -- J.M. Barnett

1954 -- James Chandler

1958 -- Paul Lanier

1960 -- Charles Casteel

1964 -- B.W. Stallcup

1968 -- H.J. Couchman

1971 -- Wayne Jarvis

1975 -- Wendell Dorman

1977 -- Lewis Ernest

1979 -- Sherman Waters

1983 -- Jim Southerland

1984 -- Bob Burnham

1991 -- Gerald Fincher

1993 -- Gaylon Cope

2000 -- Jimmy Anderson

2004 -- Larry Martineau

2007 -- Roger Armstrong

2008 -- Velda Bell

2010 -- Mace Straubel

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