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20120404_El-Mesias-United-Methodist-Church_100th-Anniversary_JB__0023El Mesias United Methodist Church has reached many milestones in its collective 100-year history.  The most significant ones are intertwined in the influence it has in the lives of steadfast members.

In celebration, the public is invited to join the congregation in marking their centennial year with three days of celebration Friday through Sunday, April 13 to 15, according to Rev. Robert Lopez, the current pastor.

Graciela de la Garza, age 78, has seen the influence of the church on four generations of her family.  Her grandmother led the way, and she has been a member of the church all her life, as was her mother. Her children grew up in the church and her family members who still live in Mission also attend the church.

When asked what has kept the church vibrant for 100 years, she responded, “I think the foundings were right. If the motive was right, God had to bless it.”

Seventy-eight year old Raquel Silva said, “Prayer life has been very important in this church.” Then she related the story of a group of women who formed a prayer group during WWII to pray for the young men from the church who had been sent off to war.

20120404_El-Mesias-United-Methodist-Church_100th-Anniversary_JB__0006“We had a group of women who were coming to the church every day to pray for them. There were over 30 soldiers in all phases of the military, and they prayed for them every day—and each one of them came back unhurt.”

Blessed with “amazing singers and musicians,” according to Rev. Lopez, music has been a central element of the church’s ministry.  For a number of years, the choir has sung a cantata every Easter and Christmas. The current 35-member choir is led by Hernan “Herman” Gorena.

Blanca Marroquin has been a choir member for 45 years.  Silva and de la Garza even longer; they grew up singing in the choir and never stopped.  Younger members today participate in the praise music with drums and guitar accompaniment.

A recent remodeling of the chapel and other areas included adding new video and sound technology to support the music component of the services and special programs.

While some things remain constant, others change out of necessity.

Silva noted, “My husband’s grandfather was one of those circuit rider Methodist preachers, and we liked to participate in mission work.  My husband, myself and another couple would go to Mexico and work over there in the colonias.  And we did that for over 20 years.  When we could no longer do that, because of the circumstances right now in Mexico, we just started working in…the food pantry.”

Rev. Lopez stated El Mesias operates a food pantry which serves about 200 families once each month.  The church purchases the food items from the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley.  The ladies of the church make all the arrangements, from the paperwork to the distribution.  Most of those served are not members of the church.  It is a service to the community.

The first pastor in 1912 was Rev. Leopoldo F. Castro in the original church at the corner of Fifth and Francisco Street.  The congregation’s second edifice was built in 1933 at 209 E. 6th Street in the heart of downtown Mission; and the final structure replaced it in 1961 at the same site.

A total of 27 pastors have served the El Mesias congregation since its beginnings. Rev. Lopez came on board as leader of the worshippers about 20 months ago.  The church now has about 700 members on the books, with 450 active and 170 attending on a typical Sunday.

According to Rev. Lopez, everything was originally done in Spanish to connect with the Spanish-speaking community. The transition to English took place in the 1980s as the people became more educated and assimilated into the culture. He noted that about 85 percent of the congregation is now bilingual and services are conducted in English on Sunday mornings with a five-minute synopsis in Spanish. Sunday evenings he still holds services in Spanish for a small group of people who still want it.

20120404_El-Mesias-United-Methodist-Church_100th-Anniversary_JB__0017The centennial celebration begins with an informal night of music and fellowship at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 13.  The youth are in charge of the singing, and former pastors and members will share stories of the past.  Historical photos and memorabilia will be on display, along with a centennial book created for the occasion. The centennial celebration begins with an informal night of music and fellowship at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 13.  The youth are in charge of the singing, and former pastors and members will share stories of the past.  Historical photos and memorabilia will be on display, along with a centennial book created for the occasion. Refreshments will be served.

A special banquet is planned for Saturday, April 14, at the Mission Community Center.  Rev. Dr. Roberto Gomez and Rev. Francisco Gaytan, previous El Mesias clergy, will be among the speakers sharing stories.  Rev. Bill Duke, pastor at First United Methodist in Mission, and other area clergy will also be in attendance.  A video presentation and music will round out the evening.

Tickets are $10 per person. Seating is limited, and reservations are required by calling the church office at 585-2334.

Finishing off the weekend’s festivities, Bishop James Dorff, will speak at the 10:30 a.m. worship service on Sunday morning.  Bishop Dorff is overseer of over 400 Methodist congregations in central and south Texas.

Prayer, music and service have been integral components of the ties that bind this steadfast church family.  It’s worked for 100 years—and the legacy continues.

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