Highland Park UMC, a Campus Congregation, Grows Up With SMU

The long history of Highland Park United Methodist Church (HPUMC) dates back to 1915 when the first classes were held at SMU.

Back then, SMU required its 700 students to attend one church service each Sunday, a challenge with no churches near campus.

What is now HPUMC would become the solution.

The University Church held services in SMU’s Dallas Hall with the university’s first president, Dr. Robert S. Hyer, giving Dr. Ivan Lee Holt, chaplain and chairman of the School of Theology, the privilege of preaching.

In 1916, Bishop Edwin Mouzon had Methodists meet at University Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), which later that year became Highland Park MECS with Clovis G. Chappell as pastor. His 30 books of sermons are still read today.

In 1927, members entered the new sanctuary, singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” SMU president Dr. Charles C. Selecman preached the message that morning.

When the Great Depression hit, HPUMC helped more than 200 needy families. The ministry included giving students small loans, serving in West Dallas, and donating food and clothing.

In 1939, Georgia Bates became the church’s missionary nurse, serving for 34 years.

Under the Rev. William H. Dickinson, a WWII veteran and senior minister, HPUMC built its sanctuary, launching construction with a ceremony in June 1953.

The congregation honored Dickinson’s profound impact by naming a home for older adults for him. In 1971, Dickinson Place welcomed low-income elderly residents, providing affordable rooms and a healthy place to live.

The following year, the Rev. Leighton Farrell became senior minister. The church grew, became a significant part of the North Texas Conference, began a Haiti Eye Clinic, and added a television ministry.

Since 2013, the Rev. Paul Rasmussen, a fifth-generation Methodist pastor, has served as senior minister.

In 2015, HPUMC celebrated 100 years with 5,500 members and guests gathering in Moody Coliseum to celebrate a congregation with a heart for leading people to Jesus.

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