University United Methodist Church

University United Methodist Church

University United Methodist Church, Austin, Texas, is a United Methodist Church belonging to the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Located at the corner of 24th Street and Guadalupe Street (known to locals as The Drag), UUMC has been a fixture near the University of Texas at Austin campus for more than 120 years. [Berry, Margaret C., and Randle, Audrey Bateman. University United Methodist Church 1887-1987: A Brief History. Nortex Press, Austin, Texas, 1987.]


University United Methodist Church began its life in 1887 under the name Austin City Mission. The congregation met in a tiny building called Honey Chapel, which was located on the northeast corner of 24th Street and Whitis Avenue, one block east of the present location of the church. The first pastor was Rev. John E. Stovall, who served as pastor for one year.

In 1888, the church was renamed Twenty-Fourth Street Church, and the congregation continued to meet in the building known as Honey Chapel until 1891.

In 1891, a new brick building was built at the corner of 24th Street and Nueces, two blocks west of the church's present location. This new church continued to be called Twenty-Fourth Street Church until 1895, when it was renamed Hotchkiss Memorial Church. (Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Hotchkiss had been members of the church since the day of its first service in 1887.) The congregation remained Hotchkiss Memorial Church until 1905, when the name of the church was officially changed to University Methodist Church -- even though services continued to be held in the Hotchkiss Memorial Church building until 1909.

In 1905, at the same time as the name change of the church, it was decided that the congregation would sell off the existing church building and property and invest the money in new property and a new building. The new property, on the Northeast corner of 24th Street and Guadalupe, was owned by an eccentric University of Texas math professor, who lived in a house build on stilts, and kept chickens under his house. The cornerstone for the new church was laid on October 8, 1907. Architect Frederick M. Mann designed the building, which was unlike any other in Austin at the time. The architectural style is considered to be Richardsonian Romanesque, similar to the style of buildings designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson. [Speck, Lawrence W. "The Building: An Architectural Evaluation" in University United Methodist Church 1887-1987: A Brief History. Nortex Press, Austin, Texas, 1987.] The use of native limestone with a Mediterranean red-tile roof was unique in Austin at the time, although this style was soon adopted by The University of Texas as the central architectural style for most campus buildings built during the first half of the 20th century.

Work continued on the new church for nearly two years, with the congregation holding its first worship service in the new building on May 23, 1909.

A second building was added to the property in 1924. The Wesley Bible Chair building was constructed just north of the church, in the area now occupied by Heinsohn Hall. This new building housed all student activity at the church, as well as providing much-needed space for Sunday School classes and other meetings.

Also in 1924, the three-story rear section of the church was demolished and rebuilt, turning what had been Sunday School classrooms and offices into an expanded sanctuary and balcony space, leaving a few classroom spaces on either side. If you look at the exterior of the building, you can still see the third-floor windows underneath the eaves. While those windows once provided light to the classrooms on the third floor of the sanctuary, they are now only accessible from the attic above the barrel-vaulted section of the rear of the church.

The congregation purchased the property adjacent to the Wesley Bible Chair at some point before the 1940s, expanding the church's property to include the entire block between 24th and 25 Streets. An old bakery, along with several small buildings, were on that property, and those spaces were used for several years as meeting rooms for children's Sunday School, as well as Boy Scouts and other groups.

In 1949, the Wesley Bible Chair building was demolished, and a new education building was constructed. This four-story building, named Heinsohn Hall, still stands today, housing all offices for the church, along with a child care center, choir room, fellowship hall, chapel, library, kitchen and numerous Sunday School classrooms and meeting rooms.

A major renovation of the entire property was undertaken beginning in 1956, when the old bakery and other buildings on the corner of 25th Street were demolished to make room for a parking lot. During these renovations (known as "The Big Step" program), outdoor play areas attached to Heinsohn Hall's child care rooms were enclosed, and both Heinsohn Hall and the sanctuary building were air-conditioned. The exposed pipes in the sanctuary's pipe organ were covered with an organ screen, and the lantern or dome area in the ceiling of the sanctuary was closed off and turned into a fluorescent light fixture.

The name of the church changed again in 1968, when the Evengelical United Brethren Church joined with The Methodist Church to form The United Methodist Church. At that time, the official name of the church became University United Methodist Church.

The next major renovation to the church came in 1968-1969, when the original pipe organ was removed and a new Schantz pipe organ was installed. The new instrument was significantly larger than the original instrument, and the Schantz organ remains in place to this day.

The sanctuary was again renovated in 1978, when the chancel area and choir loft were expanded, and the dome was reopened to allow in natural light through the stained glass windows around its perimeter. Heinsohn Hall underwent a fairly large renovation in 1985 when an elevator tower was added to the building. Minor modifications were made to the sanctuary choir loft area in 1995, to accommodate a new Steinway grand piano.

In 2007, it was announced that a campaign would begin to raise money for a complete renovation of the now-100-year-old sanctuary building. This Capital Campaign was kicked off in early 2008, with the goal of raising $3 million for the first phase of the renovations. These renovations include a complete restoration/preservation of the stained glass windows, improving accessibility to the sanctuary for the mobility-impaired, replacing the 100-year-old roof, and a complete reconstruction of the chancel area, to enlarge it and bring it all to one level.

God Is Here

In 1978, as part of the Festival of Worship, a new hymn was commissioned from renowned hymnwriter Fred Pratt Green. [Green, Fred Pratt. The Hymns and Ballads of Fred Pratt Green. Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1982.] That hymn, "God Is Here," has since been published in many languages and in many different hymnals, including The United Methodist Hymnal, [Young, Carlton R. The United Methodist Hymnal. The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, Tennessee, 1989.] The Presbyterian Hymnal, [McKim, LindaJo. The Presbyterian Hymnal. Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1990.] Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, [Moldenhauer, Kermit G. (editor). Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1993.] A New Hymnal for Colleges and Schools, [Schulz-Widmar, Russell (editor). A New Hymnal for Colleges and Schools. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1992.] among many others.

Former Director of Music Russell Schulz-Widmar, commenting on "God Is Here," said, "Certainly in the area of church music at UUMC, commissioning that hymn is one of the most important things we've done." [Schulz-Widmar, Russell. Interview for this article, 2008.]

University United Methodist Church Pastors

Senior Pastors

Austin City Mission

John E. Stovall,1887-1888

Twenty-Fourth Street Church

F. E. Hammond, 1888-1889
E. D. Mouzon, 1889-1890
F. E. Hammond, 1890-1891
Giles C. Rector, 1891-1893
S. W. Thomas, 1893-1895
Elijah L. Shettles, 1895-1896

Hotchkiss Memorial Church

E. S. Smith, 1896-1898
F. S. Jackson, 1898
Elijah L. Shettles, 1898-1899
Clyde B. Garrett, 1899-1901
D. Knox Porter, 1901-1905

University Methodist Church

New Harris, 1905-1906
Cullom H. Booth, 1906-1910
D. Emory Hawk, 1910-1912
Robert P. Shuler, 1912-1916
A. Frank Smith, 1916-1918
K. P. Barton, 1918-1924
T. F. Sessions, 1924-1926
H. Bascom Watts, 1926-1930
L. U. Spellman, 1930-1934
Edmund Heinsohn, 1934-1958
James William Morgan, 1958-1969

University United Methodist Church

William A. Holmes, 1969-1974
George M. Ricker, 1974-1985
J. Charles Merrill, 1985-2004
Carl W. Rohlfs, 2004-present

Associate and Assistant Pastors

H. M. Whalum, 1910-1912
Walter E. Kerr, 1943-1945
Calvin E. Freohner, 1945-1950
Robert E. Ledbetter, 1953-1954
Brady B. Tyson, 1954-1956
Gregory Robertson, 1956-1958
Jesse M. Mothersbaugh, 1958-1959
Jack Hooper, 1959-1963
Fred Kight, 1959-1963
H. Myron Braun, 1961-1968
F. Gene Leggett, 1963-1964
Albert B. Clayton, 1964-1967
Walter Pilgrim, 1965-1966
Norman D. Roe, 1966-1969
Gary W. Frederick, 1967-1972
Sanford Coon, 1969-1975
Janice R. Huie, 1973-1975
W. Grady Roe, 1975, 1979
Robert E. Hall, 1976-1979
Laurita Nielsen, 1979
Gary Reuthinger, 1979
Roy C. Ricker, 1980-1988
Karen Vannoy Levbarg, 1986-1992
David J. Minnich, 1986-2000
Monte Marshall, 1990-1994
Kathryn Longley, 1992-1997
J. Richard Wilson, 1994-2003
Martine Stemerick, 1997-1998
Rosie L. Johnson, 1998-2005
Barrett Renfro, 2000-present
Bill Frisbee, 2002-present
Suzanne Field Rabb, 2006-2007
Darlene Boaz, 2007-present


External links

* [ University United Methodist Church Official Web Site]

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