NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Ask for directions in Nacogdoches and you're likely to hear reference to the big white steeple at the First United Methodist Church. In one fashion or another, the landmark has given direction for a very long time.
"To have a congregation consistently going from 1837 to the present is really rather remarkable," said Dr. Jere Jackson, a historian and church member since the 70's.
The birth of Methodism in Nacogdoches fills more than one book. The first preacher got sent away in 1815 by Mexican rule. With independence the floodgate was open for clergy circuit riders.
"And the protestants quickly moved in and the Methodists were really one of the very first," said Jackson.
Frequent discoveries found in research archives or a members' attics keep church historians busy. Dr. Patsy Hallman, a historian and church member since the '60's collected the majority.
"See there is the church door," exclaimed Hallman as she looked at an old black and white picture dating decades back. Little clues from faded photographs help the historians as they trace the church history.
"It's clearing up a lot of folk tales," said Jackson.
The facts as they find them are added to a hallway gallery inside First United Methodist Church. Pictures of parsonages, former ministers, Sunday school classes and service work hang with care. It's a visual church timeline illustrating the anniversary's significance to all of East Texas.
Hallman spent a considerable bit of time and effort researching and producing a large timeline that notes historical events over the years.
The community is invited to view the display. FUMC's history greatly influenced the rise of churches of denominations.
"We're all together. I mean, we're all in this and with the secularization of our society, I'm hoping that we'll begin to talk with another," said Dr. Bill Gandin, FUMC pastor.
Another door will be opened on October 7th at two celebration services. The bishop will be there, along with visitors from throughout the state and nation. Former pastors and members plan to attend.
"The other is that our choir has commissioned an anthem for the occasion," said Gandin.
It's a joyful time to recognize the faith of those before and the ones to come. First United Methodist Church, Nacogdoches continues the legacy of providing followers a direction in life.
First United Methodist Church, Nacogdoches invites anyone to vist the hallway gallery and ask to view a 20 minute anniversary video. Then return for the celebration services on October 7th.
The church is at 201 East Hospital. The building with the tall, white steeple.