History of Mount Vernon United Methodist Church

OUR SEVENTH DECADE (1944–1954)
A Stable Period

The seventh decade began as a rather quiet time for the church. The close of World War II was nearing, in 1944, and maintaining a status quo seemed to be what the church most wanted. Of course, there were problems: for instance, ministers were concerned with the declining attendance on Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings. However, the overall health of the church was good, and the membership soon grew to more than 1,250. The Sunday school was bulging at the seams, and more space was needed.

Young Men's Bible Class, 1944, Mount Vernon Methodist Church, Danville, VA
Young Men's Bible Class, 1944

Rev. Dr. J. H. Pearson continued his ministry into the seventh decade. In 1946, Rev. Dr. Edward J. Rees succeeded him, and Reverend Rees remained until 1948. Concerned about the lack of space for Sunday school, he very much wanted an expansion program, but the church was not yet ready to move in that direction. He subsequently asked the bishop to move him.

Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Hawkins followed and took up many of the causes advocated by Reverend Rees. A city-wide crusade was organized in 1951, with most of Danville’s churches participating.

In 1952 Rev. Dr. Harold Hughes became Mount Vernon’s minister, despite the church’s request for Reverend Hawkins to return. He proved to be a capable leader and was known widely in the Virginia and North Carolina Conferences.

Mount Vernon’s tradition of supporting missionaries was strong in 1946. Dr. and Mrs. J. H. H. Berckman were supported in China, and Dr. and Mrs. Kris Jenson were supported in Korea. Local missions, including the Wesley House and the Methodist Orphanage, also received help.

Apparently bad conditions had existed in the parsonage for some time. Both Reverends Rees and Hawkins had expressed their concern, and the cause was taken up by some parishioners. A committee was formed in 1945, but a satisfactory dwelling was not purchased until four year later. The Strathmore Owens house at 154 Holbrook Avenue was purchased 1949 for $25,000. The trustees were authorized to borrow up to $20,000 for the purchase of the property. An elderly couple offered to lend $15,000 at 5 per cent interest, to be paid in twelve years. If the couple died within that time, the church would be freed of any debt. That couple was the beloved former pastor John Winn and Mrs. Winn.

March 1945 was the date of the celebration of the church's sixtieth anniversary, so chosen because the first services were held in March of 1885. (However, the Board of Stewards of Mount Vernon met for the first time in December of 1884. A special dinner meeting in December of 1944 celebrated that occasion, complete with the reading of the minutes of the 1884 session.)

There was no turmoil in the music program during this decade, but there were several ministers of music. In 1947 Miss Elizabeth Druckenmiller of St. Petersburg, Florida, came to Mount Vernon. In the tradition of well-trained musicians to lead the program, she was a graduate of Juilliard. A subsequent minister of music during the decade was trained at Westminster.

As with the political administration of the time, the early fifties was a time of stability for the church. Emerging from a bloody world war, the country was now heading into some turbulent waters, but the church was remaining steadfast. The problems would eventually have to be addressed, but that would be in the next decade.

To the eighth decade

 


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June 2009