Church History

The beginnings…

The first known Methodist Church in Arab was organized by the northern Methodist Episcopal Church. They erected a log church in 1883, and a cemetery in downtown Arab marks the location. The earliest burial date on one of the markers is 1880. The log church obviously had a lot of use in its day for it also served as Arab’s first school. James Arthur Thomason in his “General History of Marshall County” says the Northern Methodists moved their membership to Union Hill and built a church in 1897. During 1891- 92, under the leadership of their pastor, B.O.H. Cochran, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South organized what is now the First United Methodist Church. They built their building in 1893. Records do not indicate when the log building was no longer used and torn down. After the frame school was built in 1890, the log building was not used again for the school until 1898. No records show when it was last used as a church except when the 1897 congregation moved.

The northern Methodist Episcopal Church built their log church in 1883, and ten years later, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South organized and built their first building in 1893. Early records are no longer available. However, thanks to a church teacher, Veda Van Dusen, some records were compiled for a group of students and are therefore saved. In this article, information was taken from that paper and some from J.A. Thomason’s “General History of Marshall County.”

Under the leadership of Rev. B.O.H. Cochran, the church was organized in 1892 as a congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Twenty-eight names were listed on the original membership roll. The first building was built in 1893 on First Avenue West. One writer suggests it was built while Confederate leader “Bushwhacker” Johnston was pastor. It is said that he would pull off his two big guns and place them on the pulpit before he preached. It is interesting to know that while “Bushwhacker” was the pastor, Union Captain James Walter Elliott was a very active member of the church.

The long white two-story wooden building housed the church downstairs and the Masonic Hall upstairs. The bell on the top of the church was used to let people know it was time to go to church. Curtains were hung inside to separate Sunday School classes. Until 1912, Arab’s first and only Sunday School was organized at the Methodist Church with Mr. Dora Davis as Superintendent. Using International literature, no denomination was stressed so all of the community attended. Jewel Bright (Edmondson) organized the first Bible School in 1925. One has been held annually since that time.

In 1937 a brick building was finished under the leadership of Rev. H.K. Barr. Estimated cost was $10,000. R.W. Sides had started the project but he passed away before it was completed. Townspeople once rushed to the Methodist Church thinking it was on fire. It was just the women of the church cooking a bunch of fish outside to benefit the church building fund. The old black wash pot they used to fry the fish was also used to burn the mortgage when it was paid. Nails from the old wooden building were sold by the women and children to raise money for the building fund. Cards, given with the nails, had these words on them, “For 40 years or so, I have served in the House of the Lord.”

During 1939, the division between the Methodists of the North and South was reconciled and it became known as The Methodist Church. In the early 1950’s, a church parsonage was started under Rev. Preston Hughes and completed under Rev. Paul Prost. In 1956, the Men’s Club was organized. In 1960, the Educational Building, breezeway, and chapel were built under the leadership of Rev. Ray Schubert. While serving Arab, he was named Arab’s “Young Man of the Year.” A time capsule was included in the cornerstone. In 1964, the Fellowship Hall was built, the basement was renovated, and a general face lift was given to the front of the church. These projects were accomplished under the leadership of Rev. Jack Dillard. Weekly broadcast of the service over WRAB began. Jerry Sisson was pastor from 1965-1968, and during that time both church membership and budget increased. During 1968, the church became the United Methodist Church when it united with the German Speaking Methodists of the Evangelical United Brethren Church. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, needed improvements to the facilities were accomplished. Talmadge Clayton was pastor (1979-1986) and W.G. Henry was pastor (1988-1991). During 1993, the church celebrated its 100th birthday while Rev. Ernest Dover was pastor. While Robert Sparkman was pastor in 1994, plans were made to build a new church. During the 5 years of planning and building, attendance increased from 288 to 400. In 2000 the congregation that had worshiped for 107 years on First Ave West relocated to its present location on North Main Street.

The stained glass windows from the First Avenue building were installed in the back wall of the sanctuary. Two other outstanding features in the new building are the larger than life stained glass window centered in the front of the sanctuary and the magnificent pipe organ. Rev. Sam Huffstutler served as pastor from 2002—2009 and Rev. Kenny Baskins served from 2009-2014. In 2014, Rev. Steve West was appointed Senior Pastor and provided pastoral leadership through June of 2020. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic Pastor Todd Henderson was appointed Senior Pastor and has continued to lead through this unprecedented time. There are two main Sunday Morning Worship services at 9:00 am (Contemporary) and 11:00 am (Traditional), including online streaming to provide flexibility and a source of worship for those unable to be in person.

Through the years the Methodist Church of Arab has served the Lord both in home and in foreign missions, as its members have collectively been the body of Christ ministering to one another and the community. Beginning with Tuttle Thompson, founder of Arab, who at one time served as a Sunday School Superintendent, and continuing to the present day, many of Arab’s leaders have contributed their leadership as members of the church. Upon reflection, we can be proud of our heritage in the community of Arab and the community of faith.