Church hits 100 year mark

CNJ Staff Photo: Tony Bullocks First United Methodist Church members will celebrate 100 years of worship Sunday.

By Tonya Fennell: CNJ staff writer

Clovis resident John Urban was born Methodist, which is what prompted him to seek out a church during a 1958 business trip to Clovis.

“I was traveling from Des Moines, Iowa, to Clovis because I had an appointment to visit with my boss,” Urban said. “I drove around until I found a church with a sign offering a Sunday morning service at 8:30 a.m.”

That church was the First United Methodist Church of Clovis and Urban is still attending after 50 years.

The First United Methodist Church will celebrate its 100th anniversary Sunday.

Dave Tanner, who leads the church’s anniversary committee, said the celebration will combine the traditional service and contemporary service into a mixed service at 10:45 a.m. with Rev. D. Max Whitfield, bishop of the New Mexico Conference, presiding. A potluck lunch will follow the service.

“The ladies of the church prepared a cook book of the last 100 years, recipes that were handed down,” Tanner said.

One of those cooks is Mary Forester. The 66-year-old said she has been a member of the church for 50 years.

“We’re all about good Methodist cooking,” she said.

John Urban’s wife, MaryNell Urban, was born into the church.

“My grandparents were members since 1914,” she said, “and they bought the church a $5,000 pipe organ that was used in the sanctuary of the church when it was on Seventh and Main.”

When MaryNell isn’t helping in the kitchen, she is assisting her husband in the sound booth and serving as Sunday school treasurer.

Another longtime member who has spent endless hours working at the church is Mildred Norris. The 97-year-old said she joined the church in 1940. “I had a 5-month old little girl and two little boys,” she said, “and everyone was so nice to us when we joined.”

Norris said she has participated in numerous church activities over the years, but the one that stands out in her mind is junior church. “I was appointed to oversee junior church for a few months,” she said, “and I think I worked harder than the preacher did.”

The longtime members said they have enjoyed their years at the church and are looking forward to Sunday’s celebration.

“We’re hoping a lot of former ministers and staff members will come back and visit the day with us,” Tanner said. “You’re only going to do this one time. We’re not going to be around for the next 100 years.”

More memories
Sharlene Lynch — The 71-year-old has been a member for 43 years. She remembers good preachers and good friends.

Sheila Phillips — The 88-year-old has been a member for 54 years. She said she remembers how friendly
everyone was to her when she joined the church. “Several
families welcomed us,” she said. “They have been good neighbors.”

Sid Pipkin — The 90-year-old joined the church in 1926. He remembers the “rowdy boys” in the early days of Sunday school and the great meals served at the church. “Our Sunday school teachers were strict but good,” he said.

Pat Doran — The 71-year-old said she was born into the church and became a member at the age of 10 after attending a membership class under Rev. English. “I still have my cradle roll certificate from 1936,” Doran said. The Clovis resident said her favorite
memories were singing with the choir during her high school years and looking toward the back of the church to see if member A.W. Skarda was sleeping.

Vasti Pipkin — The 85-year-old joined the church in 1946. She recalled helping in the nursery and watching her daughter play the pipe organ in the “big church.”

Mary Lee Rogers — The 87-year-old joined the church in 1930. She said her brother joined with her. “They said they’d baptize any of us that needed it but we’d already been baptized,” she said. “But, my brother got baptized again.

Barbara Howell — The 76-year-old has been a member for 61 years. She remembers singing in the choir. One of her favorite hymns was “Holy Holy Holy.”

Neva Sanders — The 84-year-old joined the church in 1942. She said her fondest memory is sitting with her grandmother Ella S. Givens, who was a charter member.

Phyllis Walker — The 73-year-old has been a member of the church for 71 years. She said she remembers attending Sunday school in the church’s balcony. “It was really neat to look down on the congregation,” she said.
Two wooden crosses still hang in the church today. The crosses were handcrafted by Walker’s father, Terry Lee.

Elbert Sanders — The 87-year-old joined the church in 1953. He said he has been a choir member for 52 years.

Don McKinney — The 73-year-old has been a member since 1945. He remembers his youngest daughter being
baptized at the church in 1971.

History of the church

The first church was originally built north of the post office on Fifth and Gidding streets.

Members met in a tent until the first building was completed in 1908. The building eventually burned down and the congregation moved to where Legacy Life Family Church now meets on Main and Seventh streets before settling at its final location in 1978 on Sycamore and 14th streets.