The Mission of Ovilla United Methodist Church is, Matthew 28, to “Go out and make Disciples of Jesus Christ!”
We are a church with deep historical roots, a solid foundation and a vision for the future.
The Methodist circuit riders who traversed the country on horseback during the 18th and 19th centuries are iconic. Our church was founded in the 1880’s under the leadership of one of those legendary preachers, John C. Davis. Rev. Davis recorded the historic event: “On October 10, 1883 we bought six acres of land at Ovilla on which there is a house for a parsonage and on which we are building a church 32' wide and 50' long.” The house was located under a cluster of pecan trees, which still stand near the northeast corner of the cemetery. The church was completed in 1886. Today, the original church serves as our youth building and is affectionately known as the “Old Sanctuary.”
In the early days of the church, summer camp meetings were held on the banks of Red Oak Creek and at a brush arbor west of Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Hundreds of neighbors, guests and members of Methodist, Presbyterian and other congregations gathered for days. This started on the second Sunday in August, after everyone's crops were “laid by.” They came to enjoy the fellowship in wagons loaded with family and food, with chickens following, and a cow or two in tow. Later, they arrived in cars, camped in tents and worshiped in a large wooden tabernacle with a straw-covered floor. Many hundreds are said to have “received the Lord” at these memorable gatherings.
Folklore has it that Mr. B. P. McFarlin joined Ovilla Methodist after being ousted from the nearby Shiloh Church for shocking grain on a Sunday. Records suggest, however, that it was actually fifteen years after the incident (for which he apologized and was forgiven) that he joined the Ovilla Methodist Church. Mr. McFarlin donated land for the church grounds and both the Ovilla and Shiloh Cemeteries were later monetary beneficiaries of the McFarlin-Chapman estate. A reproduction of the original church house adorned the stage curtain installed in McFarlin Memorial Auditorium in 1926 on the Southern Methodist University campus.
The tradition of a caring and committed church family inspired by our founding pioneers is as strong today as it was more than a century ago. Perhaps nothing illustrates this quite as well as the story of our property and of our Old Sanctuary. The early members of the church provided the labor for the construction of the original 1886 church, and a small core of faithful and devoted families maintained the church through years of hardship and sacrifice. The original building had a sanctuary and two tiny classrooms under the bell towers and was heated by a pot-bellied stove in the center. Necessity is the mother of invention and the first renovations are said to have involved moving and enlarging the main entrance to its present location in order to accommodate a large casket. Rather than simply repair the building following storm damage, the congregation expanded the structure to add four additional classrooms on the west side of the sanctuary.
In 1956, under the supervision of Will H. Curtis, members added a fellowship hall and kitchen to the back. Two years later, the membership built a small frame parsonage on the northeast corner of the property. Brother Bill Blankenship and his family were its first occupants. And in 1960, the church was assigned its first full- time minister, Brother Don McGown.
In 1977 a larger fellowship hall was completed. and In 1985, the old parsonage was moved to make room for the sanctuary we use today. In 1997, we purchased 43 acres of nearby land on the corner of Ovilla and Westmoreland Roads on which to construct our future buildings.
Sunday school is a strong Methodist tradition, and in 1998 a separate Sunday school building was constructed to meet our growing program needs.
On May 9, 2010, our membership, led by a team of caring and committed volunteers, began a tremendous journey to restore our Old Sanctuary with their own hands. One year and nearly 3000 volunteer hours later, the building has been beautifully restored. Like our founders, these men, women and children became a part of something far bigger than they had envisioned - history in the making, steeped in the traditions of the past, inspired by the needs of the present and energized by opportunities to come.