THE CHURCH IN LA FERIA
THE CHURCH IN LA FERIA
In the year 1938, a group of Christians who were then worshipping in Mercedes, but living in La Feria, began the La Feria congregation. There were five families who decided to begin worshipping in La Feria and they bought an old frame building on Southwest Cypress Street from the Christian church, to use as their first meeting house. This effort was initiated by Earl Arnold who arranged for a loan to cover the $900.00 price that they paid for the building. The other four families included Brother S. E. Cook and family, Brother Vail and family, Sister McDonald and son, John, and Sister Dodd with her son Rob. The loan was paid out in monthly installments by the infant congregation, and Earl Arnold was doing the preaching.
The congregation grew and in 1951 the original building was so overcrowded that one Bible class was meeting outside under a tree. Plans were begun to add new classrooms to the old building. These plans and the new rooms were completed in 1954.
By the year 1957, with all indebtedness paid off, the elders began to talk about buying a larger block of land where a new building could be erected and ample parking space provided. They established a building fund for this purpose. The congregation put $50 per month in the fund, plus any other amounts contributed above the regular budget.
Before 1959 came to an end the building fund totaled $2200.00. In April of 1961 the congregation purchased some lots in downtown La Feria with hope of getting a new building. The decision was made to sell the old building and build as soon as possible. While-accumulating funds for this project a wonderful thing happened, which changed their plans. Brother and Sister Curtis Carden donated a choice block of land on North Parker Road to the church. This land is where the present building is located, just off the Interstate. This gift of land and the sale of the downtown lots provided funds to begin construction of the new building. Fred Scott was hired as the contractor and with help from many volunteers among the members completed the building in April 1964. The speaker at the dedication service was Walter Stevens (father of Geraldine Scott of Weslaco). Since that time the church has met in these facilities which are comfortable, adequate, and kept in good condition.
While buildings are important, the congregation consists of people and their story is the one that really counts. Space and memory limitations will not allow a complete listing of all who have worked and worshipped here through the years, but many are recalled with great joy as their efforts to spread the gospel are remembered.
We do have reliable information about the eldership which was appointed a few years after the beginning of the congregation in the early 40's. Three men, S. E. Cook, William Scott, and H. C. White were ordained as the first elders. Brother Cook died in 1953 and was replaced in the eldership by G. Foster, Sr.. Brother Scott died in 1968 and W.E. Fitch, Earl Dunnaway and Earl Spencer were added as elders. Since then brother Fitch died, and brethren Foster, while Dunnaway and Spencer moved away. The church didn't have an eldership then, until the mid 80's when Melvin Walls, Fred Scott, and Jack Blocker served as elders. Brother Walls and Fred Scott both died. Brother Roy Joiner was chosen as an elder and served with Jack Blocker. In the early 90's Brother Oluf Pyle was chosen as an elder to serve with Roy Joiner and Jack Blocker. Brother Blocker died a few years later and later on Brother Joiner left the valley, because of health problems. The church has operated since without an eldership.
Those who have served the congregation as preachers, in the order they served, were: Earl Arnold, Otto Raimey, Brother Westbrook, J. T. Morgan, Brother Lovelady, John Brown, Floyd Hamilton (who served as a missionary in the Philippine Islands), Russell Kelley, Walter Stevens, Oris Bryant, Brother Massey, Kirk Castleman, and Leonard Pyle. (NOTE: The first names of some of the preachers could not be recalled.) The list would be incomplete without the name of Steve D. Williams, of Harlingen, who "preached for the congregation several different years when they were without a regular preacher. Leonard Pyle was selected as the regular minister in June 1966. Leonard was the full time preacher several times, being selected again in the 80's where he preached until about 1990 ( also writing a book on the Kingdom), at which time he and his family moved to Plano, Texas. Brother Carl Henderson was the minister for 1991 and 92. Brother Oluf Pyle was then selected as the full time minister (also writing a book entitled The Gift of the Holy Spirit) until mid 2004, when he retired because of health reasons. Since then Brother Gene Head has preached for the English speaking congregation.
Another chapter in the congregation's history began about 1974, when a group of Spanish speaking brethren began using the building for worship. To accommodate this group the English services were set for 9 o'clock and 10 o'clock. The Spanish brethren begin their Bible classes at 10 and the worship service at 11. While the Spanish brethren didn't have a regular preacher, but they had those who were capable and willing to both teach and preach. Today the English Bible classes begin at 9:30 and worship at 10:30, while the Spanish worship is at 12 o'clock and Brother Felix Cruz serves as minister for the Spanish congregation. There are two other people who work tirelessly for the congregation with the Hispanics both here and in Mexico, being Brother and Sister Clinton Looney. Brother Looney is a gifted and fine gospel preacher and has worked as a missionary in Mexico for over 50 years.
Today the congregation is at peace, and is now completely free of debt, and is concerned about preaching the word of God to their community in both of the commonly used languages. Speaking of being debt free, we haven't included in this report the building of a home for the preacher which was also completely paid for. However it was sold in 2011 because it was no longer needed or used as a preacher's home, having been rented to others for several years.
Mrs. Edith Gist, Mr. & Mrs. John McDonald, with minutes from past business meetings, and Leonard & Oluf Pyle.