Salem UMC to celebrate 155 years

Published 10:36 pm Friday, February 14, 2020

From staff reports


Salem United Methodist Church, the oldest black church in Orange, will honor serving God for 155 years at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 23 with guest speaker Rev. James Berry of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Port Arthur.

Methodist Episcopal Church for Afro-Americans was organized at the Annual Conference in Louisiana on December 25, 1865. 

The conference included Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and was given the name, the Mississippi Conference. Salem had its origin as Salem Mission in 1868. 

The first church services were conducted in a house in the area that is the site of the Oaks Town Homes, formerly Gilmer Homes. 

Without the services of a minister on a regular basis, a Baptist minister, Rev. Arthur Robinson, conducted the services. During the year of 1869, the Conference sent Rev. Joseph T. Hardin of Galveston, to minister to the needs of the growing Christian community. This energetic circuit rider rode horseback to serve his flock.

In 1873, the church was fully organized and given the name, Salem Methodist Episcopal Church.  

Property to build a church was acquired in 1877.  The location is a portion of the present property on the corner of John Avenue and Third Street. 

A copy of the original deeds reveals Gabe Elkins, Pierre Ross, Joseph Henderson, Henry Briley, and Clem Green were trustees who acted on behalf of the church. 

A small frame building was built to house the activities of the church. After several years, the structure was inadequate to serve the need of the growing church and plans were underway to build a larger edifice.  

The planning process and the acquisition of funds spanned from 1903-1914.  

Rev. S.W. Johnson initiated the building process and a new wooden frame building was completed a few years later.

On December 5, 1917, and October 21, 1925, the 52nd and 60th session of the Texas Annual Conferences were held at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church.

After years of negotiation, the divisions of the Methodist Church agreed upon a plan of union. 

On May 10, 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant united to form the Methodist Church. 

Hence, the Episcopal was dropped and it became Salem Methodist Church. 

Plans for union were made effective by the Uniting Conference in Dallas, Texas on April 23, 1968, to merge the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church, thus, giving Salem its current name, Salem United Methodist Church.

Today, the church is also home of the Salem United Methodist Men’s Choir. For more than 20 years, a group of men have sung and entertained through music. 

Salem United Methodist Men’s Choir are also recording artists in their own rights. The singing sensation recorded a Christmas CD in 2009 with four songs on it. The music was produced and arranged by Donald Jenkins for BoBo’s Music Productions. 

Pastor Develous Alfred Brigh is the lead pastor at Salem United Methodist Church, located at 402 West John Ave. in Orange.