The story of UPUMC
From its earliest days to the present, University Park United Methodist Church has had faithful members and visionary thinkers who answer God’s call with courage, grace and conviction.
UPUMC formed in response to a 1938 study that concluded the Park Cities was one of the areas in the nation most underserved by churches. On Sunday, Nov. 12, 1939, 43 Methodists gathered for the church’s first worship service in the Highland Park High School auditorium.
mission work begins
Barely one year later, in December of 1940, Sunday School classes packed Christmas baskets for those in need in the city of Dallas and made a first contribution of $75 to the Methodist Home in Waco. This act of generosity initiated a pattern of giving and outreach in hands-on-service to both local and international missions.
first building project
The church continued to meet at the HPHS auditorium until October 1942, when it moved into a one-story, all-purpose structure to serve the rapidly-expanding congregation. New structures designed to meet administrative needs were completed in October 1949. The current sanctuary opened in the following year, March 1950.
As our congregation continued to grow, we continued to build to meet those needs. A new education wing opened in 1955, recognized as one of the Southwest’s most practical and functional religious educational facilities for children and youth. A 20-year dream to connect the Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall and Education Building took shape in 1975. During this decade of improvements the church commissioned the first French-built organ in the U.S. for our sanctuary. Today, many regard our church’s music ministry as one of the finest in the country.
The 1980s marked the development of a school of discipleship to honor Dr. Allen Lamar Cooper, longtime Professor of Christian Social Ethics and Methodist Studies at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology and the Resident Scholar for University Park UMC for more than 20 years. The Cooper School of Discipleship continues to offer popular courses ranging from Biblical history to lessons on how to raise children in today’s world.
MISSIONs go global
From the beginning, UPUMC members have extended the love and grace of Christ beyond the walls of the church into the community. In places like Dallas Bethlehem Center in South Dallas or Wesley-Rankin Community Center in West Dallas (see complete list), we have partnered with other Christians to serve people in need.
During the 1990’s our church explored a number of new, international mission opportunities. In 1992 a team went to Mallco Rancho, Bolivia, to lead a Vacation Bible School and do light construction work. Several teams have since traveled to Proyecto Abrigo (Project Shelter) in Juarez, Mexico after its founding in 1996. Our work at Proyecto Abrigo has built simple yet sturdy concrete block houses for some of the most vulnerable in Mexico. UPUMC also began a partnership with the Methodist Church of Bratislava, Slovakia in 2000. Three mission teams have traveled there over time to provide financial and spiritual support to a church that survived 40 years of communist rule.
Our global missions expanded again in 2006 when a team from UPUMC traveled to Guatemala to work with ODIM, the Organization for the Indigenous Maya. Teams now travel annually to partner with the local community to build houses and, in recent years, clinics that provide basic healthcare to those in need.
We have continued to expand our ministries to meet the needs of our congregation as well. In 2002, UPUMC became a Stephen Ministry congregation when four members and one of our pastoral staff traveled to San Antonio for training. That September UPUMC trained its first class of Stephen Ministers who, after 50 hours of training in reflective listening and ministry to people suffering divorce, terminal illness, death, and other emotional and physical upheavals, began a two-year commitment to serve the people of our congregation. Our Stephen Ministers continue to do one-on-one care and encouragement for our members during the most difficult times of their lives.
building & growing
The Come and See capital fund campaign, begun in April 1996 and concluded in May 1999, made possible long-deferred repairs and renovations to the Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall and Education Building. Many upgrades were made within the Sanctuary, including the hand-stenciled arch.
In 2006, members launched a process to explore the potential benefits of expanding church programs. This exploration eventually became known as the Dream Team Initiative with far-reaching outcomes for increased outreach, facility upgrades, and improvements in technology and communication.
The building facilities have continued to see renovation and expansion. A fundraising campaign kicked-off by our youth raised nearly $525,000 to repair and renovate the Youth Center. In October 2008 the congregation pledged nearly $6.3 million toward church renovation and construction of new activity and learning spaces. By late 2009, the church completed the first phase of the building program, which included a parking lot, landscaping, signage and accessible ramps. The renovation of the education wing was completed in summer 2010, with a new multipurpose center and children’s classroom wing, with additional renovations to the existing buildings completed in January 2012.
2014 marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of UPUMC. In the past 75 years generations of faithful members have built a congregation poised for even greater ministry to one another and mission both locally and around the globe. In the light of our past we anticipate with faith living even more into our vision to be a local congregation with a global heart.
YOU CREATE THE future
Half of our neighbors in North Dallas and the Park Cities do not have a connection to a faith community or a relationship with our loving God. You probably can think of people in your own life—co-workers and colleagues, or perhaps close friends and loved ones—who do not have a church home.
Can you imagine what would be possible if during each of the next 7 years we reached 3,000 of these people? By 2025, our church would have touched the lives of 20,000 neighbors. Or imagine this: If during each of the next 7 years, we reached 3,000 people per year, brought 10 percent of those individuals to visit our church, and welcomed just 10 percent of those visitors as active households, then by 2025, our church family would have doubled in size.