Murray First UMC celebrates 175 years of service

9/9/2014

Top Photo: Linda Scott, historian, left, and Dr. Rick C. Dye, senior minister, stand by the framed document created for Murray First UMC's 175th anniversary celebration. Bottom photos from left: Murray First UMC in 1903 and today. Submitted photos


Editor’s Note: Murray First UMC in Murray, Ky., celebrated 175 years of service on Heritage Sunday, May 18, with the creation and display of a special anniversary framed document that includes names and some photos of the church’s 73 pastors going back to 1839. This article, by the church’s historian, Linda Scott, tells about the church’s history and recent celebration.
 
By Linda Scott, Historian, Murray First UMC
 
Early History   
 
According to oral tradition, Methodist families began meeting as early as 1832 in homes in this area. As reported by Rev. James A. Hassell (1914-1916) in The Murray Ledger newspaper, April 1915, the Methodist church was organized in 1839 with 13 members in the home of Rev. Isaiah P’Pool (Pastor Rev. Boswell).    
 
The church was originally included in the Wadesboro Circuit, along with 23 other churches. We are grateful for the service of local pastors who contributed greatly to the success of Methodism in this section of Kentucky. The Murray Circuit was organized in 1845 with eight churches. Our church grew rapidly through these years and was removed from the Murray Circuit and made a full station in 1901 (Pastor J. H. Felts, 1899-1902). Our Pastor, Rev. James A. Hassell, also reported in the 1915 newspaper article that the Murray First committees of “Missionaries, Evangelistic and Social are all live wires and doing good work in their various fields”. Through the years, this congregation has faithfully served not only this community, but it has also served many global ministries. 
 
Building Projects
 
The early church soon outgrew its 1879 building—constructed near the Murray court square on Fourth Street at a cost of $3,000 (Pastor Benjamin B. Risenhoover 1876-1877, 1878-1880). A new building was erected on the corner of Fifth and Maple Streets in 1903 at a cost of $10,000 (Pastor Lewis D. Hamilton 1902-1904). By 1915, the need for more Sunday school rooms was apparent and an annex of two stories and a basement was added to this building (Pastor James A. Hassell 1914-1916). Our membership had grown to 556.

The members of our church have great satisfaction in serving as both a community and a university church. The Methodist Student Center, now the Wesley Foundation at Murray State University (MSU), was completed in 1948. The local church raised $5,000 to add to the $10,000 appropriated by the Memphis Conference. Our Pastor, Rev. T. H. Mullins (1941-1947), had initiated this project by organizing a Church-Campus Relations Committee to carry it out. He began a ministry with students, which provided a pattern for other college town churches. The facility was designed for recreational and social functions. The building also housed a chapel, office, large kitchen and apartment for a student secretary. There were 550 Methodist students on the MSU campus at that time. This project was one of the first of its kind in the Memphis Conference.
 
Committee work on a Building Master Plan began in 1950 during the ministry of the Rev. George W. Bell (1947-1951). In the spring of 1953, the modern, $200,000 educational building was begun and completed during the summer of 1954. This building was constructed while Rev. Paul T. Lyles (1951-1959) was pastor with the following members composing the Building Committee: H. T. Waldrop, Chairman; Mrs. G. B. Scott, Sr.; A. W. Simmons, Sr.; Mrs. A. F. Doran and Nat Ryan Hughes. This committee served throughout the building of the educational building and the new sanctuary.
 
In June 1959, construction began on the sanctuary, and it was completed in February, 1961, at a cost of $305,000. A farewell service was held in the old building on Sunday morning, Feb. 12, 1961. Bishop Marvin A. Franklin presided at the formal dedication on Sunday, March 5, 1961. The Rev. Paul T. Lyles was Paris District superintendent at this time and the Rev. Walter E. Mischke (1959-1963) was pastor.

The 1950 master building plan contained a Christian Life Center (CLC) to be built on the land where the 1903 Sanctuary at Fifth and Maple stood. A successful fundraising campaign was undertaken while Rev. Larry Daniel (1995-2004) was pastor. The CLC was completed and dedicated in 1997. The building contains a gymnasium, executive offices, meeting space, Sunday school classroom space and a full commercial kitchen.
 
In 1999, First United Methodist Church of Murray, Ky., and the Wesley Housing Corporation began planning for a retirement facility in the Murray area. For more than 40 years, Wesley Living has worked as an outreach of the United Methodist Church to provide excellent housing and services, which enhance the quality of living for elderly persons and their families. Our pastor, Rev. Larry Daniel, was instrumental in getting this project underway. The two-story Wesley at Murray Complex was completed in 2003 and opened with 26 units. In 2013, construction began on an additional 20 units with a separate community building. The Wesley Murray Meadows was completed in 2014. 
 
Celebrating 175 Years of Service - Heritage Sunday, May 18, 2014
 
The Memphis Conference Archives document the service of 73 senior pastors in our 175 year history. We celebrated this special anniversary with a composite of all of those appointments.   
 
I appreciate the professional assistance of Ann Phillips, Memphis Conference Archivist. She made all of her files available to me at her office in Jackson, Tenn. Over several visits, we were able to identify the years of service of our pastors back to 1839 and to capture 42 photographs. Oakwood Studios in Murray made it possible to use all of those photographs and created a beautiful composite.  

Learn more about Murray First UMC at www.murrayfirst.com.