Each year, the members of First Methodist work to create a distinctive atmosphere on the Sunday in May designated as Mother’s Day. Decorations, additional flowers, special treats from fresh fruit to chocolates adorn the corridors and worship areas. Guest speakers and artists frequently bring unique testimonies. All the ladies attending receive small gifts as they leave worship. Everyone attending enjoys the out of the ordinary atmosphere of celebration.

Yet, even among the special nature of each Mother’s Day, some stand out as more exceptional than the norm. One of these was May 14, 1922, when young pastor W. Angie Smith II preached his first Mother’s Day sermon in Midland. He chose two mothers as the focus of his sermon—Mary the mother of Jesus and Hannah the mother of Samuel. The congregation that day included his wife Bessie, pregnant with their first child, who would create his own special Sunday a week later.(1)
 Smith arrived in Midland the previous fall, following his appointment by the Bishop of the West Texas Conference to which Midland belonged at that time. The young pastor, only 26 years old, was the first-native born Texas to serve the Midland church. Though this was only his second church assignment, he already exhibited the traits that foreshadowed the distinguished career ahead of him. The Midland Reporter heralded his arrival in a special front page article, referring to him as “a real prize from annual conference.”(2)
Smith Southwestern

Smith followed a succession of middle-aged ministers who had come from other states and under whom the church had stagnated a bit. His youthful enthusiasm invigorated the church and quickly carried him into community leadership. He dropped the old church title of “Methodist Episcopal Church, South” and replaced it with the shorter and more dynamic title “First Methodist.”

When Pastor Smith preached that sermon in May 1922, Mother’s Day was a relatively new national holiday less than a decade old. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson had signed a Presidential proclamation declaring the 2nd Sunday of May to be observed as Mother’s Day.(3)

The roots of the day extended much further into the past, however, another half-century back to the turbulent days just prior to the Civil War and held a special Methodist connection as well. In 1858, a young Appalachian homemaker named Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis began “Mothers Friendship Day” as an effort to improve sanitation. Part of her fervor to help others came from her faithful membership in her local Methodist church.

With the coming of the Civil War a few short years later, Jarvis shifted her efforts toward the care of wounded soldiers and better sanitary condition for both Union and Confederate armies. She was not alone in her work. Influential women like Julia Ward Howe undertook similar campaigns.

 Following the war’s end, Jarvis redirected her war efforts toward reconciling Union and Confederate neighbors.  Jarvis also continued her sanitation work. She was instrumental in saving thousands of lives by teaching women in her Mothers Friendship Clubs the basics of nursing and sanitation which she had learned from her famous physician brother James Reeves, M.D.(3)
Inspired by her efforts, Julia Ward Howe, in 1870, issued a Mother’s Day Proclamation, calling upon mothers of all nationalities to band together to promote “the great and general interests of peace.”(4)

Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis continued her efforts until her death in 1905. Following her death, her daughter, Anna, dedicated her life to establishing Mother’s Day to “honor mothers, living and dead” and as a special memorial to her mother. She gained the financial backing from Philadelphia department store owner John Wanamaker and, in May 1908 the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at her Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day thousands of people attended a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s Philadelphia stores.

Anna Jarvis launched a media campaign to have Mother’s Day added to the national holiday calendar. A massive letter writing effort urged newspapers and prominent political figures to adopt this special day. By 1912 many states, communities and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the measure that made the second Sunday in May a national holiday for motherhood. (5)
Eight years later, Angie Smith, Jr. honored mothers with his special sermon. The following Sunday, May 21, motherhood took on an extra special meaning when Bessie gave birth to their first-born son. Little Angie III became the first child born to be born to a Midland Methodist pastor, earning recognition in the next issue of The Midland Reporter.(6)

Young Reverend Smith would remain in Midland for a second year. His next appointment was in Nashville, Tennessee. Smith would rise through the Methodist organization, earning an M. A. degree at Columbia and eventually earning several honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees. In 1944, he was elected to the Episcopacy of The Methodist Church and served as Bishop for Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Though his career eventually carried him far beyond the small church in Midland, Reverend W. Angie Smith and Bessie would always fondly remember their youthful days there and the special Mother’s Day heralding the arrival of Angie III.

  1. “Mother’s Day At Methodist Church, The Midland Reporter, May 19, 1922, p. 8.
  2. The Midland Reporter, October 28, 1921, p. 1.
  3. ”The History of Mother’s Day” http://www.theholidayspot.com/mothersday/history.htm#STvHTDy4XBAofzzF.99 accessed May 9, 2016.
  4. http://peacealliance.org/history-of-mothers-day-as-a-day-of-peace-julia-ward-howe/#sthash.T2nraEXf.dpuf accessed May 9, 2016.
  5. “Mother’s Day” http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day  accessed May 9, 2016.
  6. The Midland Reporter, May 26, 1922, p. 8.