Fenimore Street United Methodist Church Women celebrate 60 years

Nelson A. King

The United Methodist Women (UMW) of Fenimore Street United Methodist Church in Brooklyn began celebrating their 60th anniversary Saturday with a gala luncheon at El Caribe Country Club on Strickland Avenue in Brooklyn.

The group says in its souvenir journal that it “has gone through many changes since its inception.”

Under the leadership of Dr. Marguerite Thompson, who served as president for two terms, the group, in 1959, began organizing ladies of color at the church at the corner of Fenimore Street and Rodgers Avenue in Brooklyn.

According to the journal, the Rev. Ward J. Hemenway was pastor of the church from 1951-1960.

Muriel Johnson, who was very involved in the church at the time, attended the first meeting of the Wesleyan Service Guild, now known as United Methodist Women, and became its first vice president.

She also served as church treasurer, communion steward, administrative board and Pastor-Parish Relations (PPR) member, and worked with the Summer Youth Program, the journal says. Johnson was also involved with the March of Dimes and the Girl Scouts.

“Women, as they joined the church, became part of the Wesleyan Service Guild,” the journal says. “They were mostly professional women from the wider community.

“They were healthcare professionals, educators, artists, librarians and parking violation administrators,” it adds.

The late Myrtle Peale was the liaison between Fenimore Street Methodist Church and Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College.

“At that time in our history, there were many changes taking place in the community and church, as well as [in] the nation,” the journal says. “The United Methodist Women began with activities that focused on the needs of the children of a wider community.

“They were particularly interested in the cultural development of the family and community,” it adds.

In order to achieve this goal, the UMW invited outstanding artistes — soloists and opera singers — to the community, according to the journal.

It says Dorsey’s Art Gallery collaborated with UMW in sponsoring art shows. Many artistes included Tom Feelings, John Steptoe and Lavelles Husband.

The journal says Vivien Godfrey taught piano music to many children in the church and community.

“She had a special love for children and started a children’s choir at the church,” it says. “The church was a venue for many piano recitals.”

The journal says Fenimore United Methodist Women (FUMW) is “known, throughout the years, for its annual Silent Supper,” initiated by Thompson during her tenure as president.

The Silent Supper entails meditation, music and foods that are mentioned in the Bible, according to the journal.

It says 12 churches in the community have now replicated this service.

The journal also says FUMW was “a major support system and was instrumental in the development of the Weekesville Young Ambassadors Exchange Program.”

This program was based on the historic Black Community (Weekesville, 1820 to1840), the journal says.

It says this first ever Exchange Program of Black Urban Youths (ages 8 -18) to international ports of call, in the 1970s and 80s, “impacted more than 2,000 families internationally.

“Youths traveled to England; Paris, France; Barbados; Bahamas; Panama; Guyana; and Africa, just to name a few,” says the journal, adding that the training workshops and Bon Voyage receptions were developed in the Fellowship Hall at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church. Thompson, assisted by Mildred Hurlock, was the founder and director of the program.

Additionally, the journal says FUMW provides learning activities for children to become educated about their cultural heritage.

“The United Methodist Women are committed to celebrating the accomplishments of Black men and women,” it says. “Thus, during the months of January or February, a cultural event is held by United Methodist Women members.”

“We give thanks to Mrs. Dorothy Wright and Lady Blair who invited us into the Wesleyan Service Guild, which became the United Methodist Women,” says FUMW in the journal.

“They encouraged the work that we have developed throughout the 60 years, especially support for the Methodist Home for the Aging in Brooklyn and the Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn (Ladies Auxiliary),” it adds.

Dr. Maguerite Thompson (right, sitting) and Mildred Hurlock (also sitting) with fellow past presidents honorees and presenters at gala luncheon
Photo by Nelson A. King

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