HPUMC Featured Timeline Events

Our Foundation is a 100-year history of people striving to be engaged disciples of Jesus Christ in more places and in more ways than can be imagined.

Featured Events Timeline

The first class at SMU registered in 1915 and school policy stated that each of the 700 students attend at least one church service every Sunday.

The birth of Highland Park United Methodist Church (HPUMC) is tied directly to the founding of Southern Methodist University (SMU).

Unfortunately the nearest churches were located miles away and a suitable form of transportation to and from campus didn’t exist. This was a problem. HPUMC was the solution.

1915: First worship service of The University Church in SMU Dallas Hall

Dr. Hyer placed the responsibility for the preaching at Sunday services in the capable hands of Dr. Ivan Lee Holt, the university's new Chaplain and Chairman of the School of Theology. His reputation as an exciting speaker spread quickly across the campus, and he filled the auditorium for his first sermon. (The Living Vine, page 4)

1915-16 Charge Conference Records

1916: Bishop Edwin Mouzon asks local Methodists to transfer to the “new congregation”

At the time there were four Methodist churches in Downtown Dallas. The Sunday School/worship community that was called University MECS (would later become HPUMC) starts meeting in Feb. 1916 in Dallas Hall. That Summer, the Bishop asks several key members from Oaklawn UMC, Trinity MECS (which was merging at the time), and students body members from SMU were all asked to begin attending to University MECS. In November, the new congregation is renamed Highland Park MECS and Clovis G. Chappell is appointed Minister.

1916: Reverend A. Frank Smith, first Senior Minister

February 1916 - November 1916

Smith was 25 years old when he served at University MECS; later became bishop of the Texas Conference (centered in Houston).

1916: Reverend Clovis G. Chappell, Senior Minister

November 1916 - April 1918

One of the greatest preachers nationwide in the first half of the 20th century. Chappell published 30 books of sermons, which are still in use today. A collection of Rev. Chappell’s sermons are digitized here.

1917: Little Brown Church opens on May 13th (Mother’s Day) Originally called “The Shed”

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 acres 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 I.

1917: Reverend Horace Whaling, Senior Minister

April 1918 - November 1919
(Pulpit Supply September 1928 - September 1929)

He served while Lee on sabbatical. He also helped the congregation set up the China mission. Later on he became District Superintendent for Frank Smith in the Texas Conference.

1917: First Adult Sunday school classes - Women’s Fellowship and Men’s Brotherhood

The first women’s fellowship group was the Women’s Missionary Society (predecessor to United Methodist Women). They begin meeting in Dallas Hall to discuss how to get young people involved and increase membership. Sunday school classes for men and women, and young women were formed almost immediately after the formation of Highland Park MECS.

1919: Reverend Paul Kern, Senior Minister

November 1919 - May 1920

Kearn was also the Dean of the Perkins School of Theology. Later on he became a bishop. His wife and children were charter members of the church.

1920: Reverend Glenn Flinn, Senior Minister

May 1920 - November 1921

He transferred back from the North Texas Conference to become Conference Educational Secretary in 1918 before coming to Highland Park. He later became the driving force in ministries to Texas university students.

1921: Reverend C. O. Shugart, Senior Minister

November 1921 - November 1923

Shugart shepherded the congregation's decision to build the Sanctuary. He returned here to worship after retiring. His wife, Umphrey Lee's church secretary, became the first archivist.

1923: Reverend Umphrey Lee, Senior Minister

November 1923 - June 1936

Lee was the first student body president of SMU and was also the assistant SS superintendent of the University MECS. He left the church to become president of Vanderbilt and then SMU.

1925: HPUMC Church Membership reaches 1,000

1927: New Sanctuary building opens with first service on February 6th

We can only imagine the feeling of triumph of those first members on February 6, 1927, as they entered the magnificent new sanctuary and stood to sing the great opening hymn, "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name." Dr Charles C. Selecman, President of SMU, preached at the 11:00 o'clock service. Presiding Elder O. T Cooper preached at the 7:30 evening service. Mr Harold Hart Todd and Mrs. E. W Shuler prepared special music for that evening. (The Living Vine, pages 12-13)

The Bulletin (February 6, 1927)

1932: HPUMC sponsors 200 families during the Great Depression years

The church carried a tremendous social service load in 1932, supporting over 200 families. Various groups within the church set up a small loan fund for needy students; others undertook social service work in West Dallas; and everyone participated in an outpouring of food and clothing throughout the year. Three members of the Women's Missionary Society, Mrs. M. F. Armstrong, Mrs. J. S. Mclntosh, and Mrs. J. J. Russell served as coordinators for channeling supplies where they were most needed. (The Living Vine, page 17)

February-March 1932 Bulletin

1936: Reverend Marshall Steel, Senior Minister

September 1936 - January 1958

He was recruited from Arkansas. Steel started the West Dallas Mission. He got the church mortgage paid off. He was a hi-tech minister with radio ministry and printing of sermons for circulation. He also first identified the need to expand the Sanctuary.

1939: Rev. Marshall Steel launches outreach to West Dallas

HPUMC sponsors Georgia Bates as the first full-time nurse for the Visiting Nurses Association serving West Dallas.

Rev. Marshall Steel discusses Georgia Bates:

1939: HPUMC sponsors Georgia Bates as the first full-time nurse for the Visiting Nurses Association serving West Dallas

One of Highland Park's most significant contributions to alleviate the poverty health conditions in West Dallas began with the unique ministry of Miss Georgia Bates. She served thirty-four years as our missionary nurse and daily presence with the people of West Dallas before retiring in 1973. (The Living Vine, page 24)

Various Award Clippings (1939-1961)

1939: HPUMC plants University Park Methodist Church

1951: First Worship service in Cox Chapel

1954: HPUMC plants First Methodist Church of Fairbanks, Alaska Territory

On March 23, 1953, at 11:00 a.m. Reverend Bill Dickinson delivered the morning sermon with about 75 people attending. Rev. Dickinson helped build the sanctuary with contributions from HPUMC’s congregation. The ground-breaking ceremony was held in June 1953. The first service in the completed building was just before Christmas with a large attendance in spite of the sub-zero weather.

1957: First Easter Worship service in Moody Coliseum

In 1957, Southern Methodist University agreed to open their new field house, Moody Coliseum, to HPUMC. The move was initially meant to be a temporary measure, until the larger sanctuary could be built. 10,000 members and visitors would fill the coliseum.

More about Moody's legacy with HPUMC

1957: Reverend William H. Dickinson, Senior Minister

January 1958 - September 1972

Dickinson was a WWII veteran. He was much beloved by the congregation. He proposed replacing the sanctuary, which lost, when he died unexpectedly Dickinson Place, the seniors home was named for him.

Listen to Rev. Dickinson's final sermon:

1966: Special Needs program begins called "Our Class for Exceptional Children"

Mr. and Mrs. Norman Nelson, Jr., who recently became members of the church agreed to accept the responsibility of teaching a class for exceptional children.

The Tower (Announcement on Page 2)

1967: Reverend Barbara Hart of the HPUMC staff is the first female elder ordained by the North Texas Conference

Newly created staff positions in 1958-1959 added ministers whose excellence and dedication to the church helped fill the areas of need outlined by the pledge committee in 1958. Dr. Fred Edgar and the Reverend Don Benton joined the staff in June 1958. Dr. James Hares' appointment to the church as director of children's work came in 1959, as did Barbara Hart, who joined the staff as Dr. Hares' assistant. Barbara Hart' s ordination later as a Methodist Minister and her eventual appointment as associate pastor at Highland Park in 1965, made her the first woman ordained minister on the staff. Each of these people was influential in shaping the church's future in the decade ahead. (The Living Vine, page 48)

Our Church (A History of HPMC - Written for boys and girls)

1970: Contemporary Worship with Reverend Grady Hardin

Prior to 1969, worship services had been scheduled at 8:30 am in Cox Chapel with communion each Sunday, and 9:30 am and 11:00 am worship services in the Sanctuary. Thirteen months after the vote, an additional service was added in Cox Chapel, at the same time as one of the main Sanctuary services. This concurrent service was an attempt to respond to the needs of one of the largest sub-congregations within the total membership, in particular, younger persons and those associated with the SMU campus. It began in April 1970, and was called a "contemporary" service. It was led by Dr. Grady Hardin, who was then professor of preaching at Perkins School of Theology, and John Erickson, who was responsible for the music leadership.

1971: Dickinson Place opens to house low income senior citizens

Dickinson Place provides low-income senior citizens safe, affordable housing along with programming to enhance spiritual, individual, and social well-being. 

1971: A UMW Circle begins the first Meals on Wheels route at HPUMC

The program was an extension of HPUMC’s ministry with Visiting Nurses Association. HPUMC is now one of the leading partners with the V.N.A. Church member Henry Gilcrest was President of the Board.

1972: Reverend Leighton Farrell, Senior Minister

September 1972 - June 1995

He was a successful minister from First Methodist Richardson. He helped end a period of congregational decline and started period of great growth. He began age related ministries. His huge mentoring influence within the North Texas Conference is still felt. Started Haiti Eye Clinic. He had a TV ministry which he decided to stop it due to cost in the 1990s.

Listen to Rev. Leighton Farrell:

1973: Sanctuary remodeling with new organ and chancel

1976: Haiti Eye Clinic - Mission Trip Begins

Haiti Eye Clinic's mission is to spread the love of Christ by providing desperately needed eye care and health services to the people of Haiti, a poverty-stricken country with almost no eye care resources.

1985: Haiti Eye Clinic Building opens

The clinic was built by the Haitians using donations from HPUMC. It's a landmark in town, very popular and a source of pride for the people.

Rev. Leighton Farrell explains the building of the clinic:

1995: Reverend Mark Craig, Senior Minister

June 1995 - April 2013

He was a successful minister from Custer Road Methodist. During his tenure, Carpenters for Christ and Labors for Neighbors started. In 1999, he and Becky Frank launched a highly successful contemporary service called Cornerstone. It would later be taken over by Rev. Rasmussen in 2002.

Listen to Rev. Mark Craig discuss taking the Senior Minister position at HPUMC:

1996: Carpenters for Christ builds first Habitat for Humanity home

On Sunday, September 24, 1995, Rev. Mark Craig called upon the congregation to focus their eyes on South Dallas. The Carpenters for Christ project was formally announced the following April with the completion of the first house that October.

More information on Carpenters for Christ 

1997: HPUMC commits to building 100 Habitat for Humanity homes through Carpenters for Christ


“These commitments have made HPUMC Habitat’s largest partner in the world among church congregations,” says Joe Fortson, Outreach Associate with HPUMC.

1999: First Cornerstone Contemporary Worship service

The first Cornerstone service was led by Rev. Mark Craig and Rev. Rebecca Frank in April 2000. 

2000: "Night OWLS" begins for families with Special Needs children

Night OWLS (Out With Loving Sitters), a respite program for families with Special Needs, was first established in 2000. Night OWLS invites children (to age 13) with special needs and their siblings come to HPUMC on the first or third Friday night for activities and programs designed for them. Each child is paired with a trained volunteer for the evening.

2004: First Anglican style worship service

At 11:00 am on Sunday, September 12, 2004, a crowd gathered in Cox Chapel to inaugurate a new era in the worship life of Highland Park United Methodist Church. A crucifer bearing a cross led a procession of ministers and lay leaders in a procession up the chapel’s center aisle as the congregation sang, “Guide Me, O, Thou Great Jehovah.”

2005: Hurricane Katrina emergency response raises $1,000,000 and continues as Labors for Neighbors

After the Hurricane Katrina, the Biggers building was transformed into a relief center where refugees from Louisiana could come and receive support and supplies. Rev. Mark Craig spearheaded the effort, along with the Harkey and Clinton Families. Their efforts evolved into a program for going into local communities around Dallas and helping residents repair homes.

2006: First Kerygma Worship service

The word 'Kerygma' in the New Testament refers both to the essential core of the faith and its proclamation. An extended and in-depth exploration of scripture or core Christian teaching is shared to help participants understand what the scriptures and the teachings of the church meant in their original context and how they might be applied to lives today.

On October 1, in Great Hall, Rev. Walt Marcum taught the first Kerygma class. Marcum preached from the Book of John. 

2010: Munger Place Church opens as satellite campus of HPUMC

In 2009, Munger Place was struggling to stay afloat allowed the United Methodist Church, along with Highland Park United Methodist, to step in and help bring them back to life. In 2010, HPUMC officially assumed responsibility for Munger Place and began raising money to renovate the building and plant a new congregation.

Find out more about Starting New Churches 

2013: Reverend Paul Rasmussen, Senior Minister

April 2013 - present

Rasmussen is a fifth generation Methodist pastor. He joined the staff in August 2000 as the Bigger Gym manager. In 2012, he helped push Cornerstone's attendance past the Sanctuary's first the first time.

Below is a clip from one of Rev. Rasmussen's sermons:

2014: Haiti Eye Clinic re-opens after 2010 earthquake

Tragedy struck on January 12, 2010. When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked central Haiti, killing, injuring, and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. The powerful quake destroyed countless buildings and homes, including the main building of the Haiti Eye Clinic, a medical treatment facility founded by HPUMC in 1976.

For four years, the damage from the quake kept HPUMC’s medical mission teams away from the area. But on January 12, 2014, the newly re-built Eye Clinic was dedicated and reopened; the following week, an HPUMC mission team served alongside the Haitian clinic staff to see over 600 patients.

The Haiti Project

2015: Centennial celebration begins

On Sunday, February 22, 2015 Highland Park United Methodist Church officially kicked off its Centennial Year. 5,500 people packed into Moody Coliseum, on the campus of Southern Methodist University to mark the special occasion. Another 2,200 people from 6 countries and 64 metro areas joined the service from their computers, tablets, and mobile devices. A total of 200 ushers and greeters welcomed the crowd with friendly faces and helped them find seats in the packed coliseum.


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