Six: Not The Times


In mid-January 1946, the members of the First Methodist received something new in their mailboxes–the first issue ever of a newspaper for their church. Entitled The Midland Methodist, the edition was printed on a single sheet of 8 ½ by 11 inch paper, folded to create four pages. The front page of Volume 1, Number 1 included a photograph of the church facility, completed only three years earlier. There was also a message from Reverend Howard Hollowell, appointed to Midland just two month before.

Pastor Hollowell described the rather lofty goals of this new venture:

It is our purpose to give adequate mention of the various activities and organizations of the Church. . . .Therefore, this parish paper, to be published once each week, will endeavor to present various articles of information and of inspiration for the edification of the membership of this great Church. To this end we dedicate our efforts, and we ask your co-operation and prayers.

The inside pages of this first issue also included a greeting from the new Church staff members. As First Methodist continued its sustained postwar growth, more paid staff were both desirable and affordable. Alice Fleming served as Secretary and Director of Youth Work. Ms. Fleming challenged parents to involve their children in the Methodist Youth Fellowship. She told them, “Each new generation of youth is another God-given opportunity to lift mankind toward God!” and then asked (in capital letters), “WHAT ARE YOU AS PARENTS GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”

That simple first paper delineated a watershed moment in the history of the church. It represented the growing size of the congregation, requiring more creative means of communicating with them. It indicated a more professional world, where a church news column in the local newspaper seemed antiquated, something that no longer belonged in the burgeoning city of Midland. It also marked the beginning of longer pastor tenures, allowing them to become more influential, and more responsible, in shaping the direction of the local congregation.

Hollowell’s little paper launched an initiative at First Methodist that has continued, albeit with some interruptions, under different names, and through a variety of different formats (eventually becoming digital) down to the present day. The weekly church newspaper begun by Pastor and Editor Hollowell was forever after an important feature of religious life at First Methodist of Midland.

The young pastor who so boldly launched the church’s first newspaper had grown up in the Northwest Texas Conference. Born in a small town south of Sweetwater in 1907, Howard H. Hollowell was a graduate of Sweetwater High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from McMurray College, then did post graduate work at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He began his ministerial career in 1937 as an associate pastor in Abilene. Thirty-seven year old Hollowell arrived in Midland with only seven years of experience. Accompanying him were his wife Aretta and their eleven year old daughter Helen Joyce.

The paper Hollowell edited included features that became fairly standard over the years. The pastor’s column provided a forum for Hollowell to speak to the congregation beyond the Sunday morning pulpit. While not always earning the front page, it became a weekly element of the paper. His columns offer devotionals or reflections. At other times, they recognized the work of church volunteers. In one issue, he praised organist Mrs. J. Holt Jowell and the “unusually competent” church choir for their dedication and outstanding performances. Another issue recognized the work of the ushers. Hollowell also found editorial space for more personal thoughts and comments, such as low attendance for Sunday evening services (only ten percent of the active membership). He regularly signed his pieces, “H. H. H.”

Dated on Thursday of each week, the paper was designed to arrive in time to include the latest information about upcoming events for the following week. Along with the weekly calendar, new members were listed, including their addresses. Short reports or editorials exhorted the congregation to action or thanked them for their efforts. A subscription cost fifty cents a year.

Events and meetings of different church groups also appeared regularly. The Methodist Youth Fellowship enjoyed Sunday night fellowship. The Friendly Builders Class sponsored a forty-two party on a Wednesday evening. The Roy McKee family donated a Pulpit Bible in honor of their son.

Major events in the growing city also gained mention in the paper. The February 7 issue commented on the campaign for a new hospital and even provided instructions on donating to the Midland Memorial Foundation. First Baptist hosted a Union Service for the Boy Scouts, Cubs, families, and friends.

Other items were more lighthearted. The young people’s group asked for help to locate the manikin they had borrowed from a local department store for the Christmas play. The model, attired in a black suit, had disappeared. The youth hoped someone could advise them of “the whereabouts of this suit or manikin.” And Mrs. J. M. Protho lost her square aluminum utility pan.

While the modern reader might smile at these items from a simpler time, other entries provide reminders that those days, too, held their own challenges and darker times In its first issue for 1947, The Midland Methodist  noted President Truman announcement of the official end of the Second World War on the last day of 1946. Even as one peace was celebrated, the seeds of future conflicts were already sprouting. That January 2 issue also included a column by Pastor Hollowell noting the growing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech earlier in the year captured the increasing division among the former allies. Hollowell commented, “Maybe it is wishful thinking, but it seems all of us ought to breathe a prayer for the rebirth of honesty, humaneness, and sanity in all the relationships of life.” The world still awaits the answering of that prayer.

Other items have taken on new significance with the passage of time. The September 3, 1947 issue’s list of infants baptized included Laura Lane Welch, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Bruce Welch, and future First Lady.

The Midland Methodist ended its run as the official organ of the church with that September 3rd issue. In October, 1950, the paper was reborn. This time, different individuals and groups pledged to pay for the cost of one month’s printing–$135, including postage. Mrs. Daryl Davis underwrote the first month.

That year also marked the first pastoral transition recorded by the church paper. Events in Dallas led to Hollowell’s appointment as pastor at Oak Cliff Methodist in Dallas. He left at the end of 1950. The final issue of The Midland Methodist for 1950 included a photograph and brief message from the new pastor, Luther Kirk.

In 1951, the paper became a monthly, then ceased once more.

It was reborn as a weekly again in 1953, now in full newspaper sized mode. Published by Church Week in Fort Worth, the paper took on the basic format that endured for many years. The front page (and, rarely, a second page) contained local church news. The remainder of the paper included copy produced by the publisher, usually national and international news and a variety of religious filler. The rather generic banner included the name The Midland Methodist Edition of Church Week.

In 1955, the banner was more personalized. Now, entitled First Methodist Midland, it included a detailed drawing of the sanctuary.

A decade later, The Texas Methodist assumed publication of local Methodist church papers. The format remained similar, though the back page was now devoted to Conference news and the interior material was more aligned to Methodist doctrine and issues.

In 1968, the banner included the new sanctuary, constructed in the 1960s, as well as the 1940s facility. The title became First United Methodist Church. In July, 1975, only the 1960s Sanctuary sketch appeared.

Finally, in January, 1992, the church paper became the Tower Times, the name it continues to bear. A less detailed, more impressionistic sketch of the Sanctuary and bell tower replaced the older drawings. Eventually, a bell tower sketch would become the primary logo.

In 2008, the paper began publication in a smaller format. In 2010, The Texas Methodist ceased publication and the Tower Times became a weekly digital newsletter, which it remains today. For some 70 years, First Methodist has provided its members with a publication to instruct, inform, and inspire them. The church archives contains a fairly complete collection of these communications. Printed in lower quality formats, they grow increasingly fragile. While they endure, they provide a rich and detailed window into Methodist life and faith on Main Street.

Next: Singing with DeHart







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