Reverend Jesse Roberson (The Bicycle Preacher)
On July 1, 1939, the Reverend Jesse Roberson was appointed pastor of a church to be located in the Channelview school community. He received $50 per month for his services as he began to visit homes and make surveys concerning community interests in a new Methodist church. He conducted his visitations to perspective new church members on a bicycle, and this earned him the affectionate nickname, "our bicycle preacher". Soon after he arrived in Channelview, he became pastor of Wesley Methodist Church in Houston and served both churches until the following Annual Conference when Reverend Francis Fisher, his associate pastor, started assisting him in the Channelview area. In October 1939, the Old River Terrace Methodist Church was established with 33 members. In November of 1939, Reverend Roberson's duties at Wesley church became too much and he resigned as the Senior Pastor of the Channelview area.
Reverend Upton and the First Worship Service
Reverend L.C. Upton, who had been serving the Highland's Church, was appointed to the new church in Channelview. Reverend Upton was paid a salary of $25 per month. There was no parsonage, so the Board of Stewards met and rented the Runnenburg House on Market Street at a cost of $10 per month. It was a stucco, two-story, Spanish-style house which still stands today. The stewards bought lumber and made seats inside the house, and on December 3, 1939 at 9:45 AM, the first official worship service was held with 44 people present. The first Sanctuary was built under Reverend Upton's ministry and was completed on September of 1940 with a cost of building materials of only $561. This was materials only, and not finished on the inside. Reverend Upton resigned in June before the congregation moved from the stucco building into the new sanctuary, and the District Superintendent sent two lay preachers to serve the new congregation until an ordained pastor could be found.
The first preacher was a man by the name of Mr. Moley who had a summer home in the Old River Terrace community. The second was a lay preacher, Brother Boone, who was also serving Galena Park Methodist Church at the time. The first church was unsealed and unpainted. Saw horses were used for seats. There was one wood burning heater, four kerosene lanterns for lighting, and one water tap out by the street for water. There was no parking lot of any kind and no culverts to drive onto the church property. Members had to drive through the ditch to get to the church. There was a total of $750 which had been invested in the lots and the materials for the building. Trees and underbrush completely surrounded the little church which was 28 feet by 42 feet. There was a borrowed organ that belonged to one of the church members, the Connerly Family, and a piano that was purchased for $10, paid out over 10 installments.
In October 1940, Reverend Hutchenson was appointed pastor to Old River Terrace Methodist Church. He was a part time pastor who worked at an air craft company and spent his weekends at the church. During his ministry, the men of the congregation would work on evenings and weekends to seal the building while the women painted. Reverend Hutchenson organized the first M.Y.F. It was noted in the church records that Reverend Hutchenson was paid $5 per week and that sometimes he was not paid. In February of 1941, he was transferred to Dallas by the company that he worked for.
A Line Drawn In The Sand
From February 1941 until January of 1942, the church was served by a part-time supply of lay preachers. A Reverend Cavender preached for about a month, and it is recorded that the most memorable thing he did was to forget the Lord's Prayer which was quite embarrassing for him. Mr. W.C. Hutton from Pea Ridge Arkansas, a layman from Milby Memorial Church, delivered messages until November 1941. The most memorable thing about Mr. Hutton's ministry was that he would not eat chicken of any kind. This was considered by most of the membership to be downright un-Methodist. During this time, the membership of the church became somewhat disillusioned with the Methodist church and the District Superintendent and several members made countless calls to meet with the D.S. about a new pastor. Dr. Whalen, the D.S. at the time, met with about 14 members of the church one Sunday afternoon. These members informed Dr. Whalen that they believed it was time for Old River Terrace to have a full-time minister, and that they really didn't care what denomination this minister came from. They informed him that at the end of the meeting they would have a promise from him for the appointment of a full-time minister or they would find their own minister. In fact, there was a Catholic priest sitting outside the church on a stump during the meeting. If the D.S. refused, the Catholic priest was going to move in. Dr. Whalen's answer to this determined group was that he would do everything in his power to secure a full-time minister.
Reverend Peachey, First Full-Time Pastor
In January of 1942, Reverend Peachey was appointed the first full-time pastor of Old River Terrace. The pastor's salary was $120 per month, with the Methodist mission board paying $100 per month and the church paying the other $20. Truth be told, during those years, the church had a very difficult time raising the $20. There were times when for several months in a row the pastor's salary was not paid, or some months he would be paid as low as $3. One month, it was noticed that Reverend Peachey's shoes were falling apart. The church couldn't afford to pay his salary, but they did raise $5.50 for a pair of new shoes within one worship service! During Reverend Peachey's ministry, the sanctuary was finished and work on the annex began. Natural gas and electric services were added to the church buildings, and the search for a small building for a parsonage began. The Reverend John Peachy and his family moved into the community on Bayou Drive on the first of December 1941. During his tenure, there was a 30 x 60 foot addition made to the rear of the sanctuary at a cost of $1650 for the materials. This addition was completed in 1943, and Sunday School classes were formed. Also, at this time, a Baptist named Mr. Howard Miller donated all the shell that the church needed for the construction of a parking lot. Reverend Peachey and six boys from the church loaded 35 yards by shovel and hauled it to the parking lot. It was recorded that all the boys' hands were bleeding when the project was finished. In June of 1943, the church voted to pay rent for the minister to move closer to the church. Reverend Peachey bought a home on Avenue D where he lived until November of 1943 when he left the ministry to start teaching math in Pasadena.
Reverend C. E. Clark and a Faithfulness that Built a Church
Reverend C.E. Clark was appointed to Old River Terrace and started his ministry in December of 1943. Due to the second World War, the church had lost many members to the armed forces. Sometimes, Reverend Clark preached to as few as two or three persons. About 1943, the privy (outdoor restroom) rotted away and fell down. Oil drums were secured for a septic tank, and a real-life commode was purchased. The church had it's first real bathroom. Believe it or not, this was just the beginning of many great things that occurred during Reverend Clark's ministry. It was said about Reverend Clark that, "He had the patience of Job." Despite the low finances and attendance, he never gave up, and by 1944 the church began to grow spiritually as well as in numbers. Reverend Clark's pride and joy was his 1928 Ford Coupe which he would drive on his rounds and became a familiar sight in the Channelview area. In September of 1945, a house and lot were purchased from a Mr. Wells for a cost of $3500, and this became the first church parsonage.
Reverend Myers Curtis
In September of 1946, Reverend Myers Curtis was sent to pastor Old River Terrace. He was the first pastor to officially live on sight and was able to devote all his time to the church. The church grew rapidly under his leadership. A narthex and a spire were added to the sanctuary, and community services began including an Easter sunrise service held in homes along the San Jacinto River and community and Christmas caroling at Christmas time. From 1947 to 1948, new pews, hymnals and carpeting were added in the sanctuary. District compensation to aid in paying the pastor's salary was no longer needed, and the church held its first vacation Bible school which included an adult class on the history of the Methodist church. There was a women's society for Christian service that was founded and also a Board for Christian education that was created.
Reverend James Jones
In June of 1947, Reverend James Jones was appointed to the church. During Reverend Jones' tenure, the church celebrated its tenth anniversary. Church membership was 207. The Easter Worship Service saw 180, and there were 283 persons on the church school rolls. Reverend Jones introduced evening alter services and the upper room devotional was introduced into the church. The church attic was turned into a Sunday School room and a tennis court was completed. The grounds were landscaped by the Old River Terrace Garden Club. At this time, Old River Terrace Methodist Church was seen as the "rich" church in town because after every worship service, the members of ORT could be seen all around town in their Sunday finest, ladies in their Sunday hats. The church began to be a meeting place for several outside community groups: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Brownies.
Reverend Bobb Stepp & Reverend J. Carr Peel
The Reverend Bobb Stepp was pastor of the church from 1950 - 1953. At this time, the total church property jumped to 5 1/3 acres. During this time, the parsonage was very inadequate and was practically falling down. Bonds were purchased, and a new parsonage was built at a cost of $15,000. The old parsonage was moved behind the church annex to add more Sunday School space. However, Reverend Stepp and his family moved before the parsonage was completed, and the Reverend J. Carr Peel and his family were the first to live in the parsonage. Reverend Peel had a gift of getting to know people. His regular visitations revived the church and brought in many new members. Under his leadership, a men's group was organized, the first president of the men's group being V. Edward Smith. Christmas candlelight services were organized with the other churches in the community. There was a revival that brought in many new youth members. It was noted that The Reverend Peel and his wife Marjorie worked tirelessly with the youth.
Reverend C.W. Faulk
Reverend C.W. Faulk served the church from 1954 to 1955. It was during his ministry that the current sanctuary was built. The first service was held February 5, 1955, and apparently the new sanctuary was completed just in time because the old sanctuary caught fire on February 7, 1955 at approximately 1:00 AM. All the hymnals were still in the old sanctuary and were lost, along with the furnishings, the Sunday School literature, and most importantly, all the Sunday School rooms. Dezavalla Elementary School offered the church the use of their school buildings until the church could build new Sunday School rooms.
Reverend Moon and His Untimely Death
The Reverend R.B. Moon was appointed as pastor in June of 1955. It was under his leadership that the fellowship hall and the educational buildings were built. Reverend Moon formed the Channelview Ministerial Alliance, and it was under his ministry that the Reverend Wesley Stevens entered the ministry from Old River Terrace and began to attend seminary. He was known as a loving pastor who served with compassion. The church experienced great spiritual growth under his leadership. In November of 1959, he was shot and killed in a hunting accident. His wife Gussie Moon, their little daughter Debbie, and their son Bruce, who was born in December after Reverend Moon died, lived in the parsonage until the last of February when arrangements were made for her to move out. During those four months, the church was served by the District Superintendent and by the church's Lay Leader.
Reverend James Brannan
In February of 1960, Reverend James Brannan and his wife and four children moved into the parsonage. Reverend James worked hard in the area of evangelism and like several pastors before him, he and his wife were very active with the youth. Reverend James was the District Director of Education, and he directed many district events. During his tenure as Minister, there were several church spiritual studies and revivals held at Lakeview and the church sent its first group of kids and adults to summer youth camp. Reverend Brannan was well known around the community and was seen at many community and school events. Under his leadership, prayer groups and small group cells were started, and the church office and library were built. Reverend Brannan served the church from 1960 to 1966. By the time he left to serve the church in Gladewater, church attendance and membership were at an all-time high, and the first church pictorial directory was made.
Reverend Leon Reed
In Early February 1966, Reverend Leon Reed, with His Wife Lillion and their grandson David, were appointed to the church. Reverend Reed had a mission to visit the home of every member in the church, which took him about 1 1/2 years. The Methodist Men bought a donut making machine and went into business selling donuts to raise money for the Scout Hut that would double as a church facility building. Reverend Reed Stayed at ORT until 1968, at which time the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to become the United Methodist Church.
The First Pastor of ORT United Methodist Church
In 1968, Reverend Durwood Crowder was appointed to ORT. His most remembered accomplishment was the beginning of a stewardship campaign that significantly helped the church finances. During his ministry, there were some outdoor revival services that were held and ORT experienced its first Lay Witness Mission.
Reverend Clarence House
The Reverend Clarence House began his pastorate in 1971. Under his pastorate, the church had an average worship attendance of 160 with a Sunday School attendance of about 130. The church hired a paid youth director. There was a chancel choir, a youth choir, and a children's choir. There were several more revivals and Lay Witness Missions. A Bible Study Group started on Monday evenings with an average of 25 persons attending. The church supported a young missionary family that did missionary work with the Indians in Columbia. A Mother's Day Out Program was initiated, and a church playground was built for the kids. The Reverend House stayed at ORT from 1971 to 1978. During his seven year ministry, he took in some 178 new members. However, the church experienced a split because of a charismatic movement within the congregation. Reverend House moved to Galena Park United Methodist church in 1978. It was noted in the church records that many of the church's membership left to Galena Park.
Reverend Bill Walker
The Reverend Bill Walker was appointed to ORT in 1978, and like Reverend House, Brother Bill was good for the church in many ways. The parsonage saw many improvements and Brother Walker took in 178 members during his 7-year stay. Just a few years after he moved from Old River Terrace, Reverend Walker suffered a heart attack and died while serving Grace United Methodist church in Palestine. His son, Monroe Walker, who graduated Channelview Terrace, and his widow, Mazalene Walker, have both been long-time staff members at Lakeview Methodist Conference Center and are still considered cherished friends of ORT.
Pastors from Recent Memory
The following is a list of some of the other pastors who have served ORT:
1985 - 1988, Reverend W.F. Roberts
1988 - 1992, Reverend Bernard or Bernie Stein
1992 - 1995, Reverend William Rainwater
1995 - 2000, Reverend Mark Fleming, under whose leadership the Child Care Center was built
2000 - 2006, Reverend Steve Woody
On July 1, 2000, Reverend Steve Woody and family moved into the parsonage. Reverend Woody challenged the church to "be amazing" and the membership responded with a faithfulness that has seen many new ministries and many new members. The history is still being written, and we believe, "the best is yet to come". Won't you come and be a part of a great history as we people called "Methodists" at Old River Terrace embark on the great adventure of building the kingdom of God?
2006 - 2007, Reverend Abraham Ramirez
2007 - Present, Reverend J. Clayton Whitaker