50 Years with The Methodist Messenger
The fiftieth anniversary of our monthly newsletter, “The Methodist Messenger,” occurred in 2001. At that time the newsletter staff decided to celebrate the longevity of the publication by looking back at the life of WUMC through the “lens” of The Messenger, recapping each decade of church life from 1950 through 1990. Our appreciation is extended to Willow Brost for providing a synopsis of the archived newsletters that provide a glimpse back into the last five decades at WUMC. On this page, we have provided a summary of Willow's work. Please contact the church office if you wish to read the overviews or archived newsletters in more depth For now, sit back and enjoy a summary of what was happening at WUMC from 1950 through 1990!
Truman and Eisenhower were our presidents during this decade and the Korean War was in progress while we were still getting over WWII. Residential growth in the suburbs was in full gear and the “baby boom” was well underway.
WUMC was thriving under the leadership of Rev. Marshal Lucas, with average Easter Sunday attendances of 1,000 to 1,200. During this decade new pews were installed and a new stove was installed in the kitchen. In 1954, the architectural firm of Shelgren and Whitman were contracted to develop plans for a building expansion. “The locating of the temporary building to our front lawn and the absence of the old barn on the property of our neighbor Mr. Rembettie. Behind our church the basement has been dug and the foundation walls are complete.” (September 1955) Much work was done to expand the church at its southern points. The budget for 1951-52 reached a new high of $25,166, then grew to 52,000 by 1957.
In April 1951, a monthly newsletter called "The Methodist Messenger" was launched and mailed to 521 households. Volunteers submited articles, typed, mimeographed, addressed, sorted, and mailed the newsletter. In November of 1952, the purpose of The Messenger was defined as “carrying the messages of the organizations and the news of the church family.”
The staff at the church underwent several changes during the decade with one exception – our senior pastor, Marshal Lucas. In February 1959, Mr. Arthur Kraatz was named assistant to the minister. In June, Wayne Tidd became our first associate pastor and was replaced in March 1960 by Rev. Philip Schaal. In October 1951, “Richard Hill was named Assistant Church School Superintendent. In 1954, Mrs. Richard Stewart took the staff position of Director of Christian Education followed by Mrs. Burwill Glenn. Average Sunday school attendance was between 300 to 400 each week. Robert Stoll was the director of the Senior Choir and Mrs. Robert Opperman directed the Junior Choir.
Activities of the Sunday School and Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) included summer picnics, Easter Sunrise Service, summer camp at Silver Lake, hayrides, square dancing, sledding, and potluck dinners. The 40 active members of the (MYF) groups "purchased and set up the Nativity Scene which so many enjoyed in passing by our church.” Their major fund-raiser was an annual “Fish Dinner – Adults $1.00; Children $.75.”
During the 1950s, the Women’s Society of Christian Service (now called United Methodist Women) included eight circles that decided to assume Biblical names. The circles held fundraisers such as annual bazaars and “Nuts for Sale.” In September 1959, the ladies made the area south of the sanctuary into a church parlor. In addition, CARE packages were sent to many areas of the world including Korea. A very active men’s group also existed, holding monthly dinner meetings that featured prominent regional men as speakers.
The world was changing! John F. Kennedy was elected the first Catholic President. Alan Shepard, Gus Grissum, and John Glenn were made of the “Right Stuff” for space adventures. Amidst the nation’s prosperity, cracks in our culture began to appear. The assassinations of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Vietnam Conflict, and the general unrest of our country’s youth severely tested our moral fiber.
During this turbulent decade, WUMC held a memorial service for President Kennedy. Articles in The Messenger included "Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Times are A-Changing,” and “Chaos vs. Community.” Topics for the various church organizations included UFO’s, recycling, Amherst population growth, Earth Day, cryogenic burial, pesticides, and the space program.
In September 1961, Luther Ridgeway became our pastor. In 1961, WUMC members voted to “cooperate in funds for building Beechwood Retirement Homes.” By 1966, additional staff included Lay Visitor, Missionary, Director of Youth Activities, Director of Music, and Office Manager. Robert C. Root became our senior pastor in 1968 with a membership of approximately 1,400 with pledges totalling $84,000. In October 1969, the congregation voted to undertake a building expansion to expand the fellowship hall and kitchen facilities.
By 1964, Mrs. Albert Hemstreet, Mrs. Myron Orgek, and Mrs. Ray Giboney collaborated as Director of C.E. Harriett Herbert was the organist for five years. Then in 1969, Rev. David Kell was hired as Minister of Education. Mr. David Stowell became the choir director in 1961 and Mr. Russell Heinze led the Junior Choir. A new three manual organ was purchased in 1965 for our church, and in 1966 new Methodist hymnals became available.
An active monthly Men’s Club met to “promote good fellowship which will contribute to the moral and spiritual welfare of its members and the community.” The women's circles remained as energetic as ever hosting activities such as chowder, pie, and coffee sales on Election Day, fall fairs and bazaars, and luncheons with fashion shows in the spring. In 1965, they collected Green and Plaid stamps to “secure serving accessories” for the church parlor and dining rooms.
Christian Education continued to thrive with 756 people enrolled in Sunday School in June 1963. In 1963, the first reference was made to the Confirmation Class. Prior to this date, the youth participated in a Preparatory Class. The MYF and Junior High groups were extremely active during the sixties. They decorated our Christmas trees, made fruit baskets for shut-ins, had a fish fry fundraiser, and went on mission trips to Puerto Rico and the Smoky Mountains. Socials included two dances in 1968 that had over 500 in attendance!
The Messengers of the 60’s reflected a church that was committed to bringing the Good News of the Gospel to its members and the community through worship, fellowship and stewardship.