Most old ladies begin to show some wear and tear by the time they approach their 100th year.
Hobbs’ First United Methodist Church, which will celebrate its centennial year on Oct. 26-27, has seen lots of changes, and an occasional downturn, but is still on an upward trajectory sharing the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the local community and the world.
In 1919, when the Methodist Church in southeast New Mexico was just a little past the dream stage, its pastor was Edward Kirby Whidden. A family portrait shows him and his wife and children in the stiffly formal pose of that day. The picture, however, may not represent the true demeanor the Rev. Whidden. The keepers of informal local church history note that he rode a motorcycle between Hobbs and Lovington, which was what Methodists call a “two-point charge.” There is no information about the motorcycle, which considering that it was a post WWI machine, could not have offered either the safety or speed of a 21st century machine, but probably did offer the thrill of riding on unpaved and rutted roads from one church to the other and to make pastoral calls.
It was a different day then. If an investigator were to consult only the informal archives that chronicle the church’s history, they might conclude that married women did not have first names in 1919. The seven charter members of the church were listed as “Mrs. Leonard Leach, Mrs. Sam Cain, Mrs. Frank Selman, Mr. and Mrs. B. H. Turner and Mr. and Mrs. Louie Dalmont.”
Times have changed. At the end of the second decade of the 21st century, one of the pastors at FUMC is Blossom Matthews, who is married to Nick Matthews.
“He’s my favorite preacher,” Blossom said of Nick.
Nick returned the compliment.
“Blossom is my favorite preacher,” Nick said.
As a general rule, they alternate preaching on Sundays.
During the early 1920’s, the church remained part of a two-point charge for several years, but when the oil boom of the late ‘20’s and early 30’s increased Hobbs’ population, it became a “station,” meaning that its pastor served only one church. For a while, the church congregation met in one of the frame school houses on the site of what is now Will Rogers Elementary School. Then they moved to a white frame building and made plans to build a larger sanctuary and building.
In 1939, the congregation broke ground for the proposed building at the current site and in January 1940, held the first worship service in the basement of the new church. World War II interrupted the building plans and for the next seven years, the basement was the place where Methodists gathered not only for Sunday worship, but also for Sunday School, funerals, weddings, dinners on the grounds and church socials.
When WWII ended, construction began again and continued with rooms repurposed, space being remodeled, until, on Easter Sunday, 1983, the congregation moved into the present sanctuary.
Important as the buildings have been in the life of the church, it’s the church people who determine how they will put their faith into action. Over the past century, the people of First United Methodist have provided a welcome for newcomers, and are noted for caring for and nurturing the children and youth of Hobbs by being involved in non-profit organizations like the Weekend Hunger Initiative, and supporting foreign missions such as One Love, which opens water wells in Ghana.
“We are now a year into our ministry in Hobbs, and we are thrilled about what God is doing here,” Nick Matthews said. First United Methodist Church is filled with kind and gifted people who are excited about being in ministry within our community.”
Nick Matthews said his greatest joy in ministry is preaching and teaching God’s Word in a way that people can better understand and connect with God.
“I’ve discovered a new joy during my time at (FUMC), however, which the joy I feel when I see our members roll up their sleeves and reach out to the world with the love of Christ,” he said.
Blossom Matthews said, “Our family has enjoyed connecting with the wonderful people of First United Methodist Church, as well as with our community. We are excited to see what God is already doing in Hobbs, and we know that there is much more to come.”
She added that her focus as a pastor is to help people experience God in a personal, powerful way, and then to equip them for ministry within their own workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and homes.
“Each Christian is called and gifted by God to positively impact their world, and I’m tremendously thankful that the people of First Methodist are doing just that,” Blossom Matthews said.
The festivities on Oct. 26-27, start with an open house Oct. 26 from 4-6 p.m. in Susanna Wesley parlor.
The Wesley Singers, who are using the centennial as a vehicle for reunion, will sing at the open house and also during worship on Oct. 27. The Wesley Singers were a group of interdenominational teenagers sponsored by FUMC. They were in demand as guest singers at churches in New Mexico, west Texas and Colorado.
On Oct. 27 at 9 a.m., adult Sunday School classes will meet in the Susanna Wesley parlor. Worship will follow at 10 a.m., with Bishop Earl Bledsoe of the New Mexico Conference preaching and Bishop Bill Hutchinson, who grew up at FUMC, delivering the children’s sermon. Hutchinson is now retired.
After church, lunch is scheduled to be served in Wesley Hall. Chefs and servers need a fairly accurate count of those who plan to attend, so reservations are requested. They can be made by calling the church office at 575-397-7777. A love offering will be taken at the luncheon.
Walt Case has been a member of the congregation for almost 50 years. During that time he has served as lay leader, lay delegate to annual conference, member of the administrative council and finance committee as well as serving on many of the church’s committees. He is also coordinating the centennial celebration.
“We are blessed with our pastors, Nick and Blossom and we are set to keep growing and serving God in all the ways we can,” Case said.