As Owen Wyatt Hurd was walked around the sanctuary of University Park United Methodist Church after his baptism on Nov. 9, he marked the next generation of members for the now 75-year-old church.
Three days before the official anniversary, Hurd, along with his parents and five other people, joined the church that sits perched at Preston Road and Caruth Boulevard.
The church was founded in November 1939 at a meeting at Highland Park High School with 43 charter members.
Even as the church has grown, the feeling of close-knit community that started with the founders of UPUMC remains today.
“There’s a sense of family here and we and our boys feel comfortable,” said Kristine Burk, waiting for her sons to get out of a bounce house at the Sunday Carnival.
She, her husband Ryan, and their two sons live just three blocks away and have been members at the church for nearly 10 years.
“When asked why they choose to worship here, the feedback is fairly consistent,” Rev. Matt Gaston said. “Neighborhood warmth and hospitality, where you feel known and not lost, uncommon and outstanding music, and the emphasis that people perceive pretty quickly that we aren’t here for ourselves, we’re here for others, are all reasons.”
As Gaston has prepared his sermons for three celebratory Sundays in November — one recognizing members over 75 years old, one commemorating the church’s present state, and one looking towards the future — he emphasized the stories of the individuals in the church.
“In their stories, they use words like mutli-generational, discipleship, relationships. That says it better than I could,” Gaston said.
Members were invited over the past weeks to share their own personal histories with UPUMC.
One testimonial came from Cody Reynolds, who came to the church through Union, a coffeeshop near SMU.
Reynolds, through support from members, now organizes Capes for Kids, which creates and donates superhero capes to local children’s hospitals.
Along with the sermons and speaker series that brought former UPUMC pastors and members who joined the ministry back, the church has developed an archive room, where mementos are displayed.
As the weeks have gone on, members have begun adding their own memories with yellow sticky notes to the timeline.
“At the church, which prides itself in community and where members wear nametags so that they can greet each other by first name, the sense of sharing and remembrance is palpable,” Gaston said. “The fabric is so much richer than the single thread that I bring to it and I’m honored to simply be one stitch in time in a pretty amazing tapestry,” Gaston said.
This story originally appeared in the December issue of Park Cities People.