NEW CROSS FOR AN OLD CHURCH
It was a joy to read Tribune Editor David Clemons’ December 16th
article about the Monroe First United Methodist Church getting a cross atop its
steeple after 65 years. It took me back in time remembering the years I was a
member of that church. I was in my fourth year when the present church opened
its doors in 1950 moving from the old red brick church at the corner of Broad
and Highland Avenue. My memories of
the old church are scant, save for memories of nursery school, the sanctuary and
the beautiful stained glass windows. I never understood why, when that church
was demolished, the beautiful windows were not somehow incorporated into the new
From early photographs of the church I have, one can glimpse church
school students dressed in caps and gowns in the pulpit area ready to move to
the next grade level. At that time the beautiful alter area had not been
designed. Also helpful in recalling how the building and sanctuary looked were
Christmas cards the church sent out in 1950 & 1951 showing the inside and
outside of the building complete with a photo of the chancel showing the adult
and children’s choir. I worshipped
there almost every Sunday from age four until I left home for college and made
repeated visits back during the years until I made Atlanta my home and joined
Glenn Memorial Church on Emory’s campus.
at these photos brought back so many decades of memories where I felt I knew the
inside of the church intimately.
the pastor’s one room study with a portrait of the late Rev. W.T. Irvine
hanging above the pastor’s desk; the beautiful church parlor, reminiscent of a
gracious home living room and scene of many gatherings and meetings; the
stateliness of the sanctuary; the warm quiet beauty of the Launius Memorial
Chapel, given by Harry & Sallie Launius in memory of their son, Harry, Jr.,
who was killed in WWII; the various Sunday School classes including the Katie
Caldwell Sunday School Class made up of the senior ladies of the church and
taught with great gusto by its namesake, Katie Trout Caldwell, wife of Walton
News Editor & Publisher Edward A. Caldwell.
“Miss Katie” was a force to be reckoned with when giving her Sunday
morning classes, but it was a class all the ladies loved because of “Miss
Katie” and her robust personality. Another class, formed in 1961, that even
now brings a tear to my eye was the Tom Launius Class for college students,
created in memory of my Walton Circle neighbor whose death from a tragic car
accident while a student at Georgia in February 1960, gave the students a place
they could reunite and feel at home while at the same time remembering their
photo I have is of the Men’s Sunday School Class held in the Fellowship Hall
back in the day. The photo shows between fifty to sixty stalwart men of the
church gathered together for their lesson not realizing they would be
photographed at the end of the class. Many of Monroe’s leading citizens and
businessmen were members of this Sunday group.
Fellowship Hall was used regularly for the weekly Wednesday Night Suppers where
the church family would gather for a meal and fellowship, catching up with
friends in between the Sunday services. The
fellowship hall was complete with a stage for plays and other civic events to be
held along with functioning as a reception hall for many wedding receptions and
other social functions still serving in that capacity today.
memory of the early church was the tranquil garden nestled in a courtyard
between the two wings of the church building complete with a sundial sitting
atop a brick pedestal which usually gave an almost accurate time.
The garden was created and designed by Mrs. J. Roy Nunnally and family
who also gave lilies for the garden every Easter in memory of Mr. Nunnally, who
was the chairman of the building committee for the new church and whose funeral
was one of the first held in the sanctuary when he died in 1950.
of the church was the small but efficient library created to fill a need of the
congregation and cared for meticulously under the supervision of the late Mrs.
Lucile S. Pickens, former high school librarian for many years.
In August of
last year when I was in town for my 50th high school class reunion, I
attended church the Sunday following the reunion and it was such a joy to once
again be in the church of my youth and still see vestiges of old and familiar
things mixed in with new changes since being a regular member. Shutters at the
windows replaced the venetian blinds from the early years and the old ceiling
lights were replaced with beautiful brass chandeliers. Both the shutters for the
windows and light fixtures were memorial gifts to the church.
always been a big part of the Methodist service and hearing the organ and piano
brilliantly played by Janet Clark made me want to jump up and applaud her
musical talent. It is a rare
occurrence to hear music of that caliber in today’s church’s and how
thrilled I was to know my home church family had the weekly enjoyment of hearing
music of such dynamic proportions. Going back in time I can remember our going
from a Baldwin electronic organ to the majestic pipe organ whose sounds fill the
sanctuary every Sunday morning. Hearing Janet play took me back in time to when
Mrs. Paul Launius, “Miss Jennie” to many of us, was the long-time organist
and then interim organist at times filling the sanctuary with music of ethereal
beauty. Loving music as she did, for years she admonished the church leaders
over the fact the sanctuary did not have a piano. In 1961 “Miss Jennie” gave
the church a Steinway grand in memory of her late husband, Paul N. Launius, who
served as Chairman of the Board of Stewards and in 1960 as the Chairman of the
Board of Trustees. The Sunday of the
dedication for the piano the sanctuary was at capacity at both morning and
evening services as “Miss Jennie” played the new piano accompanied at the
organ by her daughter, Mary Frances Ihley. It was a day of musical grandeur I
have never heard since. The love and
appreciation of organ and piano music which has become a great part of my life I
owe in part to the passion of the music showered on me at an early age by Mrs.
Paul Launius to whom I owe an everlasting debt.
On my next
trip to town I look forward to seeing the new cross atop the steeple of the
church I still call “home” when in Monroe. Its roots go deep into Monroe’s
history and every time I have the honor of walking through those big double
doors, with all the wonderful memories I have of this building, it will always
be MY church!