In the year of 1871 twelve families and several single persons, in the town of Rising Fawn, Dade County, Georgia, decided to head west to seek their fortune. They loaded their belongings and themselves into forty different vehicles, buggies, wagons and ox carts, pulled by mules, oxen and horses. After a difficult trip, that lasted a little over three months, they decided to settle in what was then the Great Prairie of Texas.
The leader of the caravan was S.B. Austin. He organized a church, which met, in his home. He donated two acres of property north of his home for a church building. A log building was erected and the first service was held in it in February of 1872. The church was named Oak Hill, Methodist Church South. They took the name Oak Hill for the home church they left behind in Georgia. It has been reported that they had forty charter members when the church was organized.
Traveling preachers filled the pulpit. It was the first Methodist Church in northwest Tarrant County and drew members from twenty miles around. One preacher, who was called Parson White, began to fill the pulpit more often than any other and people began to call the church White’s Chapel and the name stuck.
After many years and many pastors, White’s Chapel celebrated its centennial in May 1971. At this celebration the State of Texas presented us with a historical marker. It was noted at that time that due to changing times, we were leaving behind the horse and buggy era and were moving into the Space Age.
We went into the next century of God’s work with a very dedicated membership, one which was not afraid to stand up and be counted for God and His Kingdom.
In the 1980’s the community experienced a rapid growth rate and by 1985 the small white sanctuary was terribly inadequate to meet the needs of this rapidly growing area. A new sanctuary was designed to hold three hundred people, a choir of 30, eight Sunday school rooms and a large foyer. On Easter Sunday, 1988, we held our first worship service in the new church and in the first full year of the new building we added 100 new members.
In 1992 Dr. John E. McKellar came to White's Chapel as the Senior Pastor. At the time, the church had 450 members, one service and about 100 in attendance on Sunday mornings. Since that time, there has been a steady increase to the current figures that make White's Chapel the 10th largest United Methodist Church in the United States. On average, weekly attendance is around 3400, attending one of the seven different services offered.
Dr. McKellar believes that the success of White's Chapel is the result of both the rise in population of Southlake and the committment of the church to literally give itself in service to the community.
"It's important to have dyamic children's and youth ministries. These are a priority and a foundation for growth. We have a very strong family sense. We share our facilities. We have Boy and Girl Scouts, women's organizations, and a number of groups that meet in our buildings. We made a committment to serve the community and be faithful to their needs."
In addition to weekend worship services, there are separate mid-week meetings for youth, junior high students, college students, young adults and couples. Support groups, several specific purpose ministries, many intercesessory prayer groups and a number of other community service programs meet weekly.
The church does very little advertising beyond signs posted on the grounds. Relying mostly on word-of-mouth to announce upcoming events such as concerts by top-name Christian music artists, visiting best-selling authors, women's and men's gatherings, and other programs. According to Dr. McKellar "White's Chapel is a large church with a small church feel."
"We have a spirit of love and grace," and, "The Holy Spirit is strongly present here. People sense that," he said.
(Parts taken from the Southlake Journal article - Friday, Oct, 26, 2007)