St. Paul United Methodist Church receives Texas historical marker

DENISE JOHNSON STOVALL | 1/21/2015, 2:54 p.m.
Rooted in African American traditions of worship, St. Paul United Methodist Church, located at 1816 Routh St. in the Downtown ...
From left: Bishop Mike McKee, Dr. Henry Masters, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Rev. Richie Butler, Dr. Don Baynham, Rev. Elzie Odom Jr., and Commissioner Michael Donegan. Texas Historical Commission

The Dallas Examiner

Rooted in African American traditions of worship, St. Paul United Methodist Church, located at 1816 Routh St. in the Downtown Arts District, received a historical marker from the Texas Historic Commission on Nov. 22, 2014.

St. Paul is the sole survivor of what was, for over a century, a neighborhood of monumental Black churches.

“The congregation that greets you today is the same community that has worshiped on this very site since its establishment by a visionary body of recently freed slaves in 1873,” said the Rev. Richie Butler, the church’s pastor.

St. Paul has embraced its contemporary role as “The Soul of the Arts District.” From its founding in a brush arbor, to its current landmark standing as the oldest community presence in the Dallas Arts District, it was one of the first Black Christian churches started in Dallas.

“Grow in faith and service with historic St. Paul United Methodist Church as we embrace our contemporary role as ‘The Soul of the Arts District’ …” the church website reads.

Founded in 1865 as St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church, the congregation was a mission of the Wesley Church of New Orleans – known as “Mother Wesley” for the many churches to which she gave birth, was founded in 1838 by a congregation of free Blacks, Whites and slaves. In 1873, St. Paul was established on land donated by Anthony B. Norton.

Construction on St. Paul’s Dallas landmark building began in 1901 with weekly offerings of bricks by the men of the church. Church women sustained the men’s labors with onsite cooking. By 1912, the congregation had moved their worship service from a nearby wood structure to the completed basement level of their new brick edifice. The sanctuary continued to rise overhead until its completion in 1926.

St. Paul was once the location for Huston College. The school of higher education moved to Austin and became Huston-Tillotson College – now known as Huston-Tillotson University.

Today, uunder the leadership of Butler, the church has started a contemporary ministry in Dallas. Butler was senior pastor of Union Cathedral. His congregation merged with St. Paul.

Guests in attendance were Bishop Mike McKee, North Texas (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church, Dr. Don Baynham, Dallas County Historical Commission, and Commissioner Michael Donegan, Texas Historical Commission. Former pastors on hand for the celebration were Dr. Henry Masters Sr., retired, and the Rev. Elzie Odom Jr., associate pastor at St. Luke.

The programs began with a musical selection by Jordan Cleaver, cellist. The presentation of the U.S. and Texas flags was made to the North Dallas High School color guard.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, of the 30th Congressional District, is Baptist but was a special guest. She talked about the fond memories her family had of attending programs at St. Paul.

“My son, who is now grown, still talks about how he enjoyed being with the other youth at St. Paul,” she said. “Keep your eye on the mission of where you are. No matter what happens, remember He has always been with you.”

Church historian Macy Mays-Roberson read proclamations sent from Sen. Royce West, County Judge Clay Jenkins and Mayor Mike Rawlins.

“There is no greater testimony to the power of prayer than the fact that, where here God planted a church in 1873, here we remain … St. Paul has remained committed to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, tithing and Bible study. Come feel the power of enduring faith within our storied walls,” Butler concluded during the presentation. “As we stand on the shoulders of our ancestor, St. Paul is not making history, it is history. If you want to be a part of history, your destination is St. Paul.”