Webb Chapel UMC Celebrates Closing Worship

Webb Chapel

The Farmers Branch church closes its doors after 177 years of service

April 24 marked the end of an era for Dallas County’s oldest United Methodist congregation. Webb Chapel UMC in Farmers Branch held its final worship service after the congregation voted Feb. 28 to close its doors. With dwindling resources and the challenges of the pandemic, the community decided it was time.

“We are here to celebrate the faithfulness of a congregation who has loved God through worship and service of others for over 175 years,” Rev. Al Tayengo said at the closing celebration. “But as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, ‘There is a season for everything,’ (3:1) and so we gather today to remember the past, to celebrate the present and to embrace the future with certainty that Christ is ever present in all our lives.”

Webb Chapel UMC was founded in the log cabin home of Col. Isaac B. Webb. The first meeting of the church was in that log cabin on March 19, 1844. A year later, Rev. Sam Shook was sent to Dallas as a missionary and they organized a Methodist society consisting of five members. The first church building, a log cabin, was erected in 1846, that they named Webb Chapel. After two other moves into larger spaces, the present church building was erected in 1955. The wood from the previous "Little White Church" was used in the ceiling of the current sanctuary.

Lifelong Webb Chapel UMC member and church historian Sammie Jo Perry was baptized at the church as an infant, was married there and has served in many leadership roles throughout her adult life. To her, Webb Chapel UMC is home.

“This is a lovely church,” Perry said. “A lot of people have worked hard to make it like it is, and we’re sad to see it go,” she said.

Perry’s son, Joe, says times were difficult for the aging church before last year, but the pandemic was the last straw. "The church is family," he added.

Inside Webb Chapel's last service

Bishop Michael McKee (upper left) and Rev. Al Tayengo talk before the last service.  David Kure (upper right), organist/music director, performs one last time. Rev. Joe Shafer (lower right), Rev. Sung Chol Kwon and Rev. Lynda Mayberry listen to the service. Sammie Jo Perry (lower left) is a lifelong Webb Chapel member. (Inside photos by Doeun Oh)

Rev. Tayengo credits many dedicated members such as Sammie Jo Perry for making him feel so welcome in his role as their pastor the last two years.

 “I met so many folks who have done the heavy lifting of church work. Most have been members of the church for decades,” he said. “This powerful remnant is full of hard-working leaders who took on the responsibilities of the choir, the ministry positions, the worship and outreach teams. No one wore less than three hats in this church!”

When Rev. Debra Hobbs Mason was asked what she was most grateful for in reflecting on the history of Webb Chapel UMC, the Metro District Superintendent said: “Resilience! The witness for Christ by the clergy and members of Webb Chapel UMC for over 177 years has been steadfast and faithful through wars and strife beginning with the Civil War through the Great Depression and all the wars of the 20th century up until today.

“From the time of the horse and buggy to the invention of the automobile, the airplane, the space program and the internet, the people called Webb Chapel UMC have loved God, one another and their community and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ through worship, witness and mission. Countless lives have been touched by this community of faith and it is my belief that God is smiling and saying ‘Well done, my good and faithful servants.’ ”

The congregation has been worshipping online throughout the pandemic, so the opportunity to gather for one final worship service in their church home was meaningful to the church members and clergy in attendance. The service was celebrated by Bishop Michael McKee, Rev. Hobbs Mason and Rev. Tayengo.

Immanuel Korean UMC and Webb Chapel UMC have been sharing the building for over three years and have grown close to one another. We thank God that the long history of United Methodist witness in the mission field will continue through their ministry.

Published: Wednesday, April 28, 2021