The Black Church and White Church in Town Do Something Historic

Melinda Watters

After 134 years, St. Paul invites McKenzie Memorial over to honor someone special

A historic moment took place in Clarksville, Texas, Red River County on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. Most will remember Feb. 5 as the day that the New England Patriots made history at the Super Bowl, but in Clarksville, history was made in a much simpler fashion: a luncheon.

As many of you know, Melinda Watters, the director of the Zip Code Connection in Red River County, is leaving Clarksville with her family to pursue new opportunities. Her positive impact on the Red River County community is undeniable and Evelyn Kelly, the pastor of St. Paul UMC, knew that Watters ought to be honored for her work.

St. Paul UMC was one of the first African-American churches to be founded in Red River County. The historical marker says the first building was constructed in 1883. In early January, Kelly asked the St. Paul congregation to consider hosting a luncheon for Watters and encouraged each member to make a special monetary contribution above their regular giving to fund the luncheon and a special gift. Several members including Joyce Johnson, Carol Moreland, Shyree Bills, Howard Robinson, Cathy Mims, Betty Johnson and Regina Dockins volunteered to meet for several Sundays in order to plan the details of the reception. Pat Smith, a member of St. Paul and a member of the Clarksville City Council, was commissioned to make a commemorative plate for Watters.

With an enthusiastic response from the church, Kelly invited Watters to attend the reception which would be held on the first Sunday in February. Watters immediately responded to Kelly’s text, writing, “WOW!! That is so thoughtful and means much. We will be there for worship and reception on February 5. Again, sincerely, thank you all.”

In addition to inviting Watters, Kelly also extended the invitation to Jerry Colgrove, the pastor at McKenzie Memorial UMC. McKenzie Memorial UMC is one of the oldest United Methodist churches not just in Red River County, but in Texas. The church is named for Dr. James Witherspoon Pettigrew McKenzie, a missionary from the Missouri Conference assigned to the Choctaw Mission. McKenzie Memorial built its first church in 1838. On January 27, Colgrove called Kelly. He said, “I thought I was only going to bring my wife and a few members. People are excited about the luncheon and I think we may have about twenty people. Kelly replied, “That is just awesome. Look at God!”

I have been told by several sources from both churches that, although these two congregations have existed in the same town for 134 years, they have never shared a common meal together in either of their churches. That changed on Feb. 5 when 25 folks from McKenzie Memorial walked into the fellowship hall of St. Paul UMC and broke bread together with their fellow Christians from the other side of town.

Everyone present at the luncheon was there to appreciate the positive community impact and the many important contributions that Melinda and her husband Ryan have made to Red River County through the Zip Code Connection. Watters has worked to address several economic concerns in the community and has also aided in healing some of the social concerns as well.

I don’t know whether anyone else will remember February 5, 2017 as being a historic day in Clarksville, Texas, but it was.

In His Service and Yours,
Vic Casad

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2017