First United Methodist Church Clarinda, Iowa [part 6]

1931-1937  Warren H. Meredith

Rev. Meredith’s first pastorate was Carlisle in 1917.  Other appointments included Manning, Greenfield , Guthrie Center and Atlantic .  Rev. Meredith came to Clarinda in 1931.  He is remembered as being quiet and scholarly. 


Upon the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the church in 1983, his son, Gordon D. “Rick” Meredith wrote a letter to the congregation that is worthy of quoting:


Dear Pastor,


My father would have been 100 years old this month if he was living.  As it was he made it to age 91 before passing on in Atlantic in 1974.


Thus in his memory and honor I would like the enclosed $100 to go for flowers on the altar for 3-4 Sundays, and in memory of my mother also who was always totally involved in the work of the church.


. . . He pastored several southwest Iowa county seats, was D.S. at Council Bluffs, a prime developer of the pastors’ pension fund and active on the board at Simpson College.  He never totally said but I always thought he liked the Clarinda charge most of all the work he did for the Lord.


He and my mother spent their sunset years at Heritage House in Atlantic and both are buried there.  She lived to age 85 so you can see their years of service together were many.


I ran across the enclosed print recently and it brought back memories of about 1935 when the sanctuary was remodeled.  It was a big project for its day about $35,000 I think.  I learned much about church construction—some of which I still use as chairman of the improvements committee of my church down here.


To me Clarinda was the real role model of Middle America at its best.  I hope the present generation appreciates what they have there.


I was age 8-14 in that period and I can recall events there much plainer than when I was in HS at Council Bluffs , which I never liked nearly so much because of its bigness.  We had most everyting at Clarinda which a kid would want.  Not much money, a depression in session, but the finest fresh food on the table and events going on all the time.


The church had activities most every day.  Boy Scout Troup 203 sponsored by the church was one of the best.  George Woolson from the Herald was Sunday school superintendent and scoutmaster.  I recall once we had a jamboree of scouts at Shenandoah.  Jack Swisher and I were bragging over the soup his mother made for the Lion patrol but Bob Williams came begging for a hot dish and I gave him some soup and his Panthers edged out our Lions overall something like 848 to 842.  The soup did it. . .


Please express my sincere and best wishes to some of the old timers from the 1930s.


Bob Caswell remembers some rousing monopoly games in the parsonage with Meredith’s sons. 


Rev. Meredith carried on an annual Crusaders with Christ campaign during Lent.  Each Sunday service provided a special opportunity to develop both morning and evening services around a theme.  One year it was a “Program of the Loyalty Crusade”.  The special services included Roll Call Day, “The Call to Loyalty” (Women’s Night with music by the women’s chorus and Dr. Nira Kilise-Grounds speaking); Family Day, “The Way to Loyalty” (Men’s Night with music by a men’s chorus); A Stewardship Service, “The Fruits of Loyalty” (a Service of Practical Religion with Dr. Sukov of the State Hospital speaking on ‘Religion in Human Relations’); Neighbors Day, “The Influence of Loyalty” (a Brotherhood Service for All Faiths); Symphony Day, “The Glory of Loyalty” (Old Hymn Night); The Challenge to Loyalty (Esther Guild Service pageant and special music); Palm Sunday Services, “The Pledge of Loyalty” (Laymen’s Night); and Easter Triumph, “The Incentive to Loyalty” (with a young people’s service and pageant).


In the Pastor’s Report of 1935 we learn that “I have done the work as a pastor in the homes of the people with increasing pleasure; and, I like to think, with increasing efficiency.  I have visited the sick, cheered the dying, and given such comfort as I could to the sorrowing.  I have conducted twenty funerals, ten of which were members of this church.  With the remarkable fine work of Mr. William Markle, we have placed in the homes of our people one hundred and seventeen Northwestern Christian Advocates. . . We are using the fine little booklet ‘The Upper Room’ in some 40 homes, with good success.


That year he had received 39 by profession of faith, 37 by transfer, baptized 44 people, and solemnized 26 weddings.  With the Clarinda Ministerial Alliance he had participated in union activities.  The alliance had fostered and incorporated as a non profit the Tinker House Community Work on East Garfield in its work for mothers and children.  Rev. Meredith served on the board of directors of the Page County Social Service and did special case work..  He served as Chaplain at the State Hospital .


In order to save coal and light, the prayer meetings and other meetings were held at the parsonage along with some of the Sunday School classes.  The contributions to the different benevolences were at a high point .


During his ministry the church was remodeled.  The altar equipment was set up and a new organ and echo organ were installed.  It was reported that “his patience and kindness at a time when there was so much difference of opinion within committees was providential and thus kept God’s way first.”


The new organ was housed in three large tone chambers—the Echo organ in the southeast corner of the balcony, the Great and Swell organs in two large rooms back of the reredos and grille back of the altar.  The slow and cumbersome tracker action was replaced with an electric action.  The entire organ is operated from a three-manual Austin console.  The high excellence of the organ was attributed to the chairman of the music committee, Claude Annan; and to the great skill of its builder Mr. C.F. Dunn.  Mr. Dunn was called a pipe organ architect.  He was also a graduate musician and an accomplished organist.  He made “a most valuable contribution to the rebuilding program. . . and built the organ without financial gain to himself.” (11)



At the time of the organ dedication, a document called The Christian Symbolism of Our Sanctuary was included in the program.  That document states in part:


One of the greatest authorities on worship says, “A sanctuary is not a mere auditorium, but an appropriate place of worship.  In design and appearance, therefore, it should be dignified and beautiful, an expression of true art.”  To best “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” demands an environment suggestive of holiness.  For a church, like a sacrament, should be “an outward and visible sign of an inward grace.”. . .


After speaking in depth about the early Methodists who were denied beautiful surroundings for worship, the writer describes our sanctuary (many of the symbols are still present):

In a concert hall, it is expected that the singers are to be arrayed in banked formation, so all can be seen.  In the sanctuary, however, the choir use their voices for another purpose, and their seating is consequently differently arranged.  Instead of being exhibited, they sit inconspicuously on a low platform in parallel seats facing each other across the chancel. . .


Approached by the central aisle leading up to the altar symbolizing the Holy of Holies the open chancel rail symbolizes the right of every man, whomsoever he may be, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, young or old, to approach the Highest and the Holiest without any human intermediary, be he minister, priest or bishop.  Truly ‘tis the symbol of the Magna Charta of religious liberty.


The three steps by which we rise from the common level of the church to the higher level of the altar of our God, may symbolize the three conditions that God lays down for entrance to His fellowship—repentance, belief, and self-dedication.


The design seen in various forms in the pew ends, the altar, the reredos, the organ-grill, the pulpit, lectern, and the lanterns, is the trefoil or clover design adapted to the Gothic.  It symbolizes the “Three-In-One,” the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


In the border of the grill above the altar may be seen what seems to be circles with the letter “s” within.  This is a very ancient Oriental design called the “Monad.”  It dates back at least to 3000 B.C., and probably originated in Persia , the home of the Wise Men “who made long journey to lay their gifts at the feet of the Babe of Bethlehem .”  It represents “The Great Infinite,” that which is without beginning or end, the Creator of all things, and before whom all should bow and “worship in spirit and in truth.”


The “seven-branched candlesticks” set in the Gothic niches on either side of the altar, were made in Palestine and imported to this country.  Their design was given to Moses on the mount by inspiration as recorded Exodus 25:31-40.  Such a candlestick of gold was placed in the Holy of Holies in the ancient tabernacle, later in Solomon’s temple, and copies of it were undoubtedly seen in the synagogue at Nazareth by the boy Jesus.  Today it is the common heritage of Jews and Christians of all faiths.


In the circular window in the east gable is found the figure of the anchor, symbolical of the surety of our faith in God, and the final triumphs of righteousness, which is “an anchor sure and steadfast and which entereth into that which is within the veil.”  Heb. 6:19


In the opposite window is the crown, the emblem of the reward that awaits the true and faithful servant of his Lord who hath borne the cross lived the life of faithfulness.


Memorials and Gifts


v  The altar, reredas and grill in memory of Mr. A.T. Clark by Mrs. Clark

v  Pulpit by Dr. Charles Collier in memory of Dr. Carrie Butler Collier

v  Lectern by Mr. John Sullivan in honor of Dr. Charles Collier

v  Baptismal font by Mrs. J.M. Williams in memory of pastor Rev. J.M. Williams

v  Altar rail by Charles and William Sinn in honor of Mr. And Mrs. George Sinn

v  Illuminated altar cross by Harry Jones in memory of Mrs. Annie M. Jones

v  The seven-handed candlestick in the west niche in memory of M.W. Whittaker

v  The seven-handed candlestick in the east niche by Mrs. Max Mayer

v  The Estey Echo organ is a gift of Mr. And Mrs. Claude Annan and Mr. And Mrs. C.E. Hoskinson.


Following his Clarinda appointment, Rev. Meredith became the Council Bluffs District Superintendent.  In addition to being a Field Representative for the Reserve Pension Fund he served churches in Chariton, Ankeny and Woodward.  He retired in 1956 and passed away in 1975.



1937-1940      W. Frank Lister



Dr. Lister had a tremendous energy and ability to accomplish work for God’s kingdom.  Because of his wisdom and sacrifice he was able to inspire many.  It was under his leadership that the First Methodist Men’s organization was formalized.  Dr. Lister’s Iowa churches included Lacona, Patterson, Milo , Madrid , Greenfield and Des Moines .  He left to become district superintendent of the Ottumwa district of the Iowa-Des Moines Conference.


During this pastorate the three Methodist Churches—Methodist Protestant, Methodist Episcopal South, and Methodist Episcopal—were united in Kansas City in 1939.


The Woman’s Societies of Christian Service (W.S.C.S.) was organized in 1940.  Mrs. Lafe (Helen) Boman was the first president followed by Mrs. George (Lucile) Woolson. This consolidation united the Ladies Aid, and the Woman’s Foreign Mission and the Woman’s Home Mission.  Dolores Bellairs recalls thinking that Helen Bowman was one of the saints of the church.  The grand piano in the church sanctuary was given in her memory.  Several parishioners remember that it was Mrs. Bowman who always said, “you cannot retire from the Lord’s work.  Do the best you can, that’s all the Lord requires of you.”


Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) was also organized and supplanted the former youth groups of the church.


The Hi-den Sunday School Class taught by Bill Markle and later George Woolson was very popular for high school boys.  Many 2003 church members recall Mr. Markle’s willingness to discuss morality issues.  The class gained national recognition and headlines when they accurately predicted (a year in advance) the date World War II would start.

Bill Markle is also remembered by those who were in the church at that time for having his own “Amen” corner at services.  He always wore a lapel full of award pins.  Once when he had publicly lost his temper he discussed with the class how wrong he had been and told the boys that “the devil had beguiled him.”  


Youth activities were popular.  This continued to include  social gatherings at the homes of the adults who were in charge of the classes like the one shown in the following picture, a gathering of junior high boys at the Markle home.


The directory included a list of businesses that were owned by Methodists or family members of Methodists with the advice that, “These folk have contributed for the publication of this directory ad since they are our church family we recommend that you patronize them whenever possible.”


Ruth Woolson Laning recalls his kindness and taking the time to talk to her when her brother Paul died.


The church remodeling was completed during this time.  The men had not budgeted enough for the remodeling, so the women of the church fed the Kiwanis Club for months in order to pay for the new kitchen. 


Rev. Lister started children’s sermons in what he called the “junior message”. 

He married Dan and June Logan.


Following his Clarinda pastorate, Rev. Lister became Superintendent of the Ottumwa District and then served churches in Boone and Bloomfield.  He retired in 1957