By Rev. Mike Brannon
Moving to Eufaula, the first things I noticed about First UMC downtown were the bell tower and red awning in front.
But the four arched windows in the tower had broken glass. Pieces seemed to fall out every time the wind blew. People coming to church stepped through glass shards to get inside. And birds nesting in the tower created a sidewalk mess.
The bell hadn’t rung for years.
Members were distressed about the conditions of the tower, but a solution had not been found.
Then Tom and Carolyn Reid visited and joined the church, and Tom started attending United Methodist Men meetings. Tom had designed stained-glass windows for churches. He said he would rebuild the windows in the bell tower.
The tower was built in 1975, but the windows and bell have a longer history. They were salvaged from Sealey Methodist Chapel, Folsom training school, Smithville (1922-1933).
With Tom’s craft skills, Eufaula’s UMMen began to plan restoration of the tower.
President Dave Chambers led cleaning and repainting inside the tower. Wire screens deprived the birds of their roost, so they moved to new homes. Some of the men, led by Wayne McKnight, constructed cedar window frames.
The bell was restored, too. Sometimes it rings 12 strokes, and sometimes 13, as the Spirit leads the bell ringers!
Tom recreated three of the windows from salvaged glass. The fourth window, facing the street where everyone passing by can see it, required new glass. Within its design is the United Methodist cross-and-flame symbol.
Tom made small crosses from glass shards he couldn’t use in the windows and gave one to each family.
While the men installed the windows, Eufaula’s United Methodist Women were baking pies for their fund-raiser that supports a missionary. They presented fried pies to the men, and all joined in a pizza lunch to celebrate completion of the work.
The church looks so much more inviting, and the downtown area hears the bell at noon every day, proclaiming The United Methodist Church is alive and well in Eufaula.