Our story began nearly 150 years ago, when settlers came by wagon train to begin meeting in prairie houses in 1871. The first formal service, in our historical chapel, took place in February 1872, and was the first Methodist church in the vicinity, drawing crowds from as far as 20 miles away to attend Oak Hill Methodist Church South.
Today, the people of White’s Chapel stand firmly on the shoulders of giants. We are in the position to worship God, change lives, and serve our community in powerful ways because of the focus and determination of the generations of people who have poured into our church. Though we now have over 14,000 members, dozens of ministries, and even global impact, we still follow the example set by a small community of 140 years ago. Their values of accepting change, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and stepping out in faith will remain our guiding principles now and forever.
In the year of 1871, 12 families and several single persons, in the town of Rising Fawn, Dade County, Georgia, decided to head west to seek their fortune. They loaded their belongings and themselves into 40 different vehicles, buggies, wagons and ox carts, pulled by mules, oxen and horses. After a difficult trip, that lasted a little over three months, they decided to settle in what was then the Great Prairie of Texas.
The leader of the caravan was S.B. Austin. He and his family settled on what is known as the Obadiah Knight Survey. He organized a church, which met in his home. He donated two acres of property north of his home for a church building. A log building was erected and the first service was held in it February 1872. The church was named Oak Hill, Methodist Church South. They took the name Oak Hill for the home church they left behind in Georgia. It has been reported that they had 40 charter members when the church was organized; most of the families were either Austins or Blevins.
Traveling preachers filled the pulpit. It was the first Methodist church in northwest Tarrant County and drew members from 20 miles around. One preacher, who was called Parson White, began to fill the pulpit more often than any other. People began to call the church “White’s Chapel” and the name stuck.
After many years and many pastors, White’s Chapel celebrated its centennial in May 1971. At this celebration, the state of Texas presented us with a historical marker. In addition to marking 100 years of ministry, the anniversary also marked the beginning of a new age for the church, one that would be defined by great faith, powerful new ministry, and tremendous growth.
In the 1980s, the population of northeast Tarrant County grew dramatically, and by 1985, the small white sanctuary was not able to meet the needs of this readily growing community. A new sanctuary was designed to hold 300 people, a choir of 30, eight Sunday school rooms and a large foyer. On Easter Sunday 1988, we held our first worship service in the new church and in the first full year of the new building, we added 100 new members.
In 1992, Dr. John E. McKellar came to White’s Chapel as the senior pastor. At the time, the church had 450 members, one service, and about 100 in attendance on Sunday mornings. Though the congregation was well over 100 years old at that time, the church and the community around it were prepared for rapid growth. With an infusion of new energy and a commitment to engaging entire families in ministry, Dr. McKellar’s vision for a vibrant church began to take shape.
“It’s important to have dynamic children and youth ministries. These are a priority and a foundation for growth. We have a very strong family sense. We share our facilities. We have boy and girl scouts, women’s organizations, and a number of groups that meet in our buildings. We made a commitment to serve the community and be faithful to their needs.”
In the following 20 years, White’s Chapel experienced extraordinary growth, now including 14,000 church members and averaging 5,000 worshippers in weekly attendance. That growth shows no signs of slowing: In 2012, Outreach Magazine named White’s Chapel one of the top ten “Fastest-Growing Churches in the U.S.” The growing number of people who call White’s Chapel home are visible not only on our campus, but online, worshipping at whiteschapelumc.com from locations around the globe. While the church’s ability to engage large numbers of the community is a point of pride, discipleship at White’s Chapel goes much deeper than church attendance. Thousands of children, youth, and adults participate in discipleship classes every week, and the FaithWorks service team engages in missions of mercy and justice both locally and around the world. All these actions are tied together in a single vision: To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Going forward, White’s Chapel is committed to living out the dreams established by the pioneers who came before us: the dreams that our community could be rooted in a place of worship, that people would allow God to shape and guide their lives, that others would know us by the fruit we bear. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the presence of love and grace, and through the open hearts of our community of faith, we have been blessed by over 140 years of powerful ministry, and we can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next.
(Parts taken from the Southlake Journal Article – Friday, Oct. 26, 2007)
As a church, we rely on Scripture to guide our beliefs and services. The Trinity, the Bible, our humanity, salvation and more are significant in keeping us rooted in our faith.
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