The First Building Program
The young congregation, made up of SMU faculty, college students and residents of Highland Park and University Park, continued to worship on the 3rd floor of Dallas Hall while patiently waiting for the temporary church structure to be completed. On six acers of donated land by SMU, located southwest of Dallas Hall, the “Little Brown Church” was completed at the cost of $4,500.
The first service was held on May 13, 1917 on Mother’s Day and two weeks prior to the United States entering into World War 1.
The first sermon in the Little Brown Church was delivered by guest preacher Umphrey Lee. He surprised the congregation with its brevity. When asked about it later he said, “No soul was ever saved after the first twenty minutes.” Umphrey Lee would return as senior minister of Highland Park Methodist Church in October 1923. His messages were known for their wit, logic, scholarship and brevity.
Despite the fact that the Little Brown Church was intended as a temporary building from the beginning, the congregation continued to make expansions and additions to the original frame structure. In 1918, the first attachment was erected for the purpose of offering Sunday school for children.
While the membership grew steadily after WW1, the attendance on Sunday mornings fluctuated greatly with inclement weather. The roof of the main building began to leak. Members unable to move to a more favorable spot were forced to raise umbrellas. On cold mornings, most of the congregation would simply stay home. Another symptom of an aging temporary structure was the flooring. The floor started to settle unevenly which created a distinguishable slant. Once when the collection plate fell to the floor after the offering, many of the coins “went clink, clink, clink down the aisle!”
The church began, February 1916, with 134 charter members and grew to 540 members in 1921. Four short years later, in 1925, the membership stood at 867 and grew to 1,160 in 1926. It was then time to consider building a permanent church structure.
Derived from Branches of the Living Vine, 1991
Category: Church History