Religious and Moral Issues
Part 9: Hamilton M E Church - Ministerial Changes
As I remember, Keller was followed by Dick Brownfield. While he was at the Hamilton church a very small Ferris Methodist church was added to his responsibilities. As I think back, many of the Hamilton church felt terribly put upon to have to share their minister with Ferris – which was 15 miles or so distant. Part of the fuss: why not team Ferris with the Carthage church, which would be much closer. The Ferris Methodist did eventually close. A “Christian” church there nibbled away at families that did not go in to Carthage Methodist. After all, the school at Ferris is a part of Carthage. But I remember we Hamilton Methodist were lacking in our own Christian spirit in sharing the minister. When Brownfield went to Ferris he usually took Esther to play the piano there. I had no problems, that I recall, with Brownfield.
I think it was when Brownfield was leaving, the Pastor-Parish Committee had extra problems. (This might have been with Keller’s leaving). The move came at other than the usual month of ministerial moves. The District Supt. talked with the committee. He had a minister available, but did we think he would fit in the congregation and the community. This unidentified minister was well qualified but he was accustomed to wearing clerical collar and garb through out the week. And he was a member of the Order of St. Luke – who practice faith healing. The committee could not vision a smooth acceptance in Hamilton of such a person.
We had a supply minister during a time before we eventually got R. Walker Butler. He was considerable of an individual. People in and out of the church joked and made wise-cracks about him. But the whole town did know him and respect him. He was, in a way, handicapped by an invalid wife, Eunice. She did get to church events somewhat when the first arrived. I had both of them to dinner once I remember (cause I’ve a color slide of them in our living room). But she eventually was confined to hospitals, and then died.
Walker Butler kept up his office as Navy Chaplin by being in the area Navy Reserve. This, I think, made him more ecumenical than many ministers. He aided the women in organizing a Cooperative Mission Study series – the Methodist, Disciples, and Presbyterian. I was told by Bonnie Ewers that she consulted with Butler rather soon after moving to Hamilton from Keokuk.
Bonnie was of a strong Methodist family in Texas. But her husband Jack (H.E.) and his mother were strong Catholics of Keokuk. Bonnie attended several Methodist events with me, but Butler suggested, for the safety of her marriage and family, she attend and take part in the Catholic church with her husband.
Butler was the enthusiastic promoter of the Methodist Education Unit. I think John was on the building committee for some preliminary planning. I organized the Sunday School to bring “pennies for bricks”. Then we had reports as to how many bricks our pennies had bought and how much of the south wall they would build month by month. The whole membership seemed to be strong behind the building project. Children’s S.S. classes were crammed in every available space. Intermediates white washed the coal bin, drew sketches of fish on the stone walls, and called it their catacombs. Younger children filled all in the old dining hall with four ft. movable partitions between classes. Three adult classes shared the Sanctuary and other spaces at that level.
The children had an active part in the ground-breaking. They each with a trowel or spoon “broke ground” and prepared a container of earth and flower seeds which they could watch grow as the building grew.
Butler was a lonesome man when his wife finally died. He confided and talked with me frequently (and surely with the other church members also.) Finally he told me he was planning to marry again. He even took me with him to some district church meeting, and let me meet the Dorothy he planned to ask.
I invited them to supper by our new fireplace for the first night they were back in town after the wedding. Tho not planned by me, that was perfect for the youth and Gaza class planning a shivaree! When the newly weds proposed to take their leave after supper, Dorothy wondered why I did not urge them to stay a little longer! But I had had a phone call that the others were in waiting around the parsonage!
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