History of Mount Vernon United Methodist Church

THE NINTH DECADE (1964-1974)

The time of racial strife in the early sixties did not omit Mount Vernon from those institutions affected in some way. Fortunately, time healed wounds, and the church moved on in its usual way of supporting the greater causes of the Methodist Church. Although the Commission on Christian Social Concerns was briefly abolished, it did return before the end of the decade.

It must be noted that while other churches remained bitterly divided on social issues, our church cautiously preserved the peace. A Danville District ministers' letter to Mount Vernon captures the sentiment in a quote from Ephesians. "I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."

Just as Dwight Eisenhower had a calming influence over the country following World War II, so did Rev. Carroll Freeman mollify the discontented in Mount Vernon. He became the senior minister in 1964, and his quiet, positive leadership was the proper salve for the time.

With the advent of many new industries in Danville, church membership was still on the increase. The youth program was active, and in some instances demanding. Two youth (Pete and Martha Viccellio) appeared before the Administrative Board to ask for approval of a Coffee House at Mount Vernon. While the Board failed to act at the time (1966), the Coffee House did come to fruition later under the leadership of Associate Minister Joe Savinsky.

Dr. Freeman remained at Mount Vernon until 1968, when he was followed by Dr. Theodore Landis, one of the most beloved pastors in the history of the Mount Vernon congregation. Indeed he was the consummate church leader: excellent pulpit minister, pastor to the entire congregation, and spiritual witness for Jesus Christ.

Dr. Landis remained until 1976, when he retired. Joe Savinsky, the associate from 1967-1970, helped propel the church along in its youth ministry, although that was just one of his many responsibilities.

As usual, during the decade Mount Vernon paid its financial obligations. Some experiments, however, floundered. An "Adventure in Tithing" program was almost totally unsuccessful. Conversely, when Mount Vernon was asked to contribute $15,000 of the district's $76,000 obligation to the Bishop's Fund for Reconciliation, the church responded by raising over $18,000.

In 1968 the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, resulting in the United Methodist Church. Dr. Landis took the lead in explaining the new church positions to the congregation. (As of 2013, the church sign on West Main Street still has not been changed to reflect the name of the merged church!)

From 1967 through 1971, Dr. Lou Mize was the director of music for Mount Vernon, and the choral program took a giant leap. Sunday afternoon choir programs comprised some of the finest sacred music.

Early photos of Mount Vernon show large cupolas on both the Main Street and South Main Street sides of the main roof line. The cupolas were removed when a new roof was put in place in the early seventies. As these repairs were being made, a return to the original cathedral ceiling was considered but denied because of the inordinate expense of removing wiring and ducts for air-conditioning.

Strong pastoral leadership guided Mount Vernon through this ninth decade. The church was stronger for having been guided through the turbulance.



To the TENTH Decade


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August 2013