Debt Free: The Wesley Center at Paris JC Celebrates Mortgage Burning

Burning the note montage

Dr. Rick Erickson, president of the Wesley Center Board of Directors, has the honor of burning the ceremonial deed. 

The Wesley Center will use the money to actualize creative, student-led projects

From songs of praise to the pop of confetti cannons, the Wesley Center at Paris Junior College was filled with the sounds of joy April 28 at a mortgage-burning celebration as the group commemorated paying off its building. Campus Minister Michelle Wood and the board of the Wesley Center gathered with students, alumni, benefactors and friends for a meal, prayer and a ceremonial burning of the mortgage for the house that has been the Wesley Center’s home since 1999. 

Carolyn Karrer, a long-time supporter and board member, was on hand to share some of the Wesley Center’s history. She and her late husband, Ray, moved to Paris, Texas, in 1969 and were immediately recruited to support the Methodist students at PJC. She reflected on the innovative ways they served the students before they had a building to call their own.

“We would serve a meal in the basement of the main building of PJC and the smell drifted up the staircase, and the next thing you know the students were following the smell and down the staircase they came,” Carolyn said.

Ray Karrer was a former faculty member and the theater on campus is named in his honor. His decades-long dedication to the Wesley Center has left a lasting mark on the community. 

“April 28 was my husband Ray’s birthday. He spent many hours trying to keep a Methodist presence on this campus so he would be so excited to see that mortgage burn,” Carolyn said. 

Wesley montage of ceremony

Alongside the Karrers, Rev. Ed Dodd served as Director of the Wesley Center at Paris Junior College for 14 years where he ministered, fed and formed great relationships with many students. Rev. Dodd died on May 10, 2021, in lieu of flowers the family has designated the Wesley Center as one of the recipients of memorial funds. The legacies of these men and many others who came before will live on through the good work in this ministry center that was once a simple home.

A residential house across the street from the PJC campus was purchased to serve as the Wesley Center. Rev Glen Vickers and Bud Jones from Calvary UMC in Paris renovated the home to make it usable for gatherings with larger meeting spaces. United Methodists from the area have continued to support the Wesley Center with their time and talents. An anonymous donor paid the remaining balance on the mortgage this year, freeing up funds that can be put directly to use in ministry. 

“We are incredibly grateful! That individual’s generosity has inspired our young adults to think about the ways they hope to financially give back to their community once they are in their future career fields,” said Campus Minister Michelle Wood.

Michelle WoodNo longer having a mortgage to pay will allow the Wesley Center to use the money to actualize creative, student-led projects, said Wood. 

One of the highlights of the mortgage burning celebration was the student testimonies as they reflected on how they’ve been impacted by this ministry.

“What the Wesley Center means to me is friendship and expression because we’re free to express ourselves here without judgment,” student Maddy Stuckey said. “We know it’s a safe place and we are loved.”

Said student Hunter Anderson: “There are three realities that are made true at the Wesley Center. First, agape is Greek meaning unconditional love. In the gospels it is used to speak of the love that God has for us and the love that Christ commands us to have for others, and that is made a reality here. We do so much for each other. We do so much for the community here. And it is such a healing experience — to have this as an escape at the end of the day is truly a blessing. Second, in the Lord’s Prayer we always pray ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ — that is a submission. And this is the work, this is the kingdom coming down. This place is us making it a reality. Third, St Paul tells us that we are all the body of Christ, we are the physical members of his holy church. With Christ as the head we all are its members. We’re all so different but if we were all the same we would be useless. So when we have variety we work together to make something beautiful.”

The inspiring evening was interspersed with praise songs from intern Sydnee Hawkins and a prayer of thanks from East District Superintendent Rev. Vic Casad. 

Kelly Carpenter, Associate Director of the Center for Leadership Development, offered this blessing by John O'Donohue for the space they can now officially call their own:

“May this space shelter your life. 

When you come home here, may all the weight of the world fall from your shoulders. 

May your heart be tranquil here, blessed by peace the world cannot give. 

May this space be a lucky place, 

where the graces your life desires always find a pathway to your door.

May nothing destructive ever cross your threshold.

May this be a safe place full of understanding and acceptance, 

where you can be as you are without the need of any filter of pretense or image. 

May this space be a place of discovery,

where the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your soul can emerge to deepen and refine your vision for all that is yet to come to birth. Amen”


Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2021