The first Protestant families in Bandera began gathering for Sunday School and worship in the late 1850’s under the leadership of Daniel Rugh. Rugh crafted an altar which he carried in his wagon along with his family to the places where Methodists gathered before a permanent building was constructed. Early Bandera Methodists gathered in an old blacksmith shop located in the vicinity of what is now the Eleventh Street Bar; a lumber building that stood at the corner of Cedar and Main; and in good weather, worshippers would meet under a brush arbor that stood across Hackberry Street from the present day campus. By the time the first Methodist circuit riding preacher, John Wesley DeVilbiss, came to town in 1861, Bandera was ready to organize a formal church.
The first official Methodist preacher was Rev. Andrew Jackson Potter. During the Civil War, Potter was stationed at Camp Verde where he preached to prisoners and soldiers alike. He traveled to other nearby places and is said to have preached in Bandera in 1862. In 1867, the Bishop of the newly created West Texas Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South (MECS) authorized the district superintendent to charter the Methodist Church in Bandera. Among the earliest members of the newly formed congregation were the Rugh, Langford, Stevens, and Sandidge families, descendants of which continue to be among the present day membership. Bandera Methodist Church has had 71 appointed pastors since 1867 including two female pastors and several pastors who have become District Superintendents.
A permanent sanctuary building at the corner of Hackberry and Eleventh Streets was constructed in 1880 and the footprint of that first structure still exists today although several modifications have been made through the years. Long range building plans and other considerations are now underway to continue to effectively minister to a growing population in Bandera and the surrounding area. In 1987, Bandera United Methodist Church was recognized as a United Methodist Historical Site. For most of its 150-year history, the church campus has occupied the land between Cedar and Hackberry Streets with Eleventh Street flanking the west end. In 1949, a stone parsonage was built next to the sanctuary and over its 70 years was used as a home for many of Bandera’s pastors, housed the church office for a number of years, and was used as the youth building until 2014. The old parsonage was sold and moved in 2016 to become a private family home. A Fellowship Hall, Office Building and open air pavilion were constructed and modified in 2002-2003 and continue to fulfill the mission and ministry of the church today.
Church records indicate growth in membership and financial stewardship through the years. Beginning with 27 members in 1873 to 400+ in 2017, Bandera United Methodist Church continues to maintain steady growth in its prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Financial resources have grown accordingly and for fiscal year 2016, the active membership underwrote 80% of its first ever $400,000 plus operating budget. Pledged giving for 2016 is greater than the entire fiscal budget four years ago. This represents a growing and spiritually healthy congregation putting God first in our tithes and offerings.
The BUMC story is not yet complete. We have been, are now, and will continue to be part of God’s advancing kingdom, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It is God who has gathered diverse peoples and personalities across the past 150 years who have and will continue to shape the people called Methodist in Bandera. It is God who is moving people like you to join with us and bring your gifts and graces to a church for the 21st century in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. We hope you will be a part of the next chapter of our rich history.
For a more detailed history of Bandera United Methodist Church, contact Cheryl Young in the church office.