#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Worship

The Beginnings of Brentwood Methodist Church

My mother, Zenova Cook Hahn, has always been proud of her community church. Brentwood Methodist Church started with a group of people meeting in a house or in Brentwood School across the street.

Zenova recalled, “I was about 13 years old when we began having meetings about forming a Methodist Church in Brent. We held those meetings and church services in the auditorium at Brentwood School. Before this, we went to Richards Memorial Methodist Church in Brownsville. W.J. Hughes – the minister from St. Mark’s Methodist Church – was the one who started the meetings and preached for us in the beginning of the ‘new’ church.”

On May 13, 1951, the Pensacola News Journal published an article on the dedication of St. Mark Methodist Church. The same article said, “The St. Mark church is successfully sponsoring the building of the new Brentwood Methodist church which was organized four months ago and now has a membership of 71 members.”

Zenova said, “My grandmother, Molly Pittman Stevens loaned the money interest-free to buy some land right across Palafox Street from Brentwood School. There was a house on the property and the interior walls were removed. We had services there while we planned our building.”

Zenova Cook posing for a photo outside the church meeting place before the church was built on Palafox Street.

The May 13, 1951, article said, “Bishop Purcell will place the cornerstone for Brentwood church, located near the highway in Brentwood park, at 2:15 p.m. Sunday.”

The newspaper contains many mentions of Brentwood Methodist Church, although they are mostly brief announcements of meetings.

A few special events stand out, such as a fall festival, fish or spaghetti dinners, and a Halloween party for children who collected for UNICEF.

Thanks to the paper, we know the church celebrated Homecoming on September 4, 1955, with special music and singing, and a talk by Rev. W. J. Hughes in the afternoon.

My mother would be the first to tell you that hers was the first wedding in the church, on August 14, 1956. It was also supposed to be the first marriage, but just a few days earlier, another couple randomly walked in and asked the minister to marry them.

Zenova told me, “In addition to my parents, Hoyt and Willie Cook, and my brothers Aldis and Howitt, the families I remember being involved from the beginning are: Marcus and Sara Page, and their children Sue and Ray; W.C. and Ester Johnson; Mrs. Davis; Mr. & Mrs. Bush, son Billy and daughter Caroline; Roy and Elsie Padgett, children Rodney, Peggy, and Debbie; Eschol and Edna Burroughs, son Joe; Carnley and Ella Mae King, son Alan; the Thomases; the Wells family with children Peggy and Paul; The Terry family, son Ike; Mike & Edna Barnard; Mr. & Mrs. Frank Cobb; and Sue Wright.”

During my newspaper searches, I found a funeral notice for another church member, Sarah M. Jernigan, wife of Capt. Thomas Jernigan. We are missing many other names. Perhaps mom and I can go through the 1950 Census, looking at names in Brentwood Park, to pick out some of the others. If you know of any other members, or perhaps attended the church yourself, please leave a comment.  I would like to improve on this article and submit to the West Florida Genealogical Society magazine for 2023.

As I was growing up, we weren’t in Pensacola very often, but I’m sure I attended Sunday School or Vacation Bible School at Brentwood Methodist Church at some point. It all came to an end in the mid-‘70s. The United Methodist Church decided to close Brentwood Methodist and sell the property. It was purchased by Brentwood Assembly of God. I attended church there once with a neighbor’s child, and as we walked upstairs she said something that really rubbed me the wrong way, because this had been my mother’s church. She commented that they had installed carpet, so it didn’t sound like a herd of elephants. I didn’t say anything, but I thought to myself, “You wouldn’t sound like a herd of elephants if you walked property like a person.” Funny how things can stick with you for decades! Eventually they made over the outside of the church as well, so it looked nothing like the pretty church it used to be.

My mother said she had stopped in once or twice for something, to vote or for a charity sale, and she always saw in the foyer a table that her grandmother Mollie Stevens had donated to Brentwood Methodist. Very recently, I noticed a new sign out front for a different, independent church, and I wonder if that table is still there or if Brentwood Assembly would have taken it to their new location, or if they would even have sold it. I hope it’s still in a church, because that’s what my great-grandmother would have wanted, I think.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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4 Responses to #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Worship

  1. Enjoyed your post about your Mom and her memories of this church, a special place of worship in her life. I do hope the building continues to be used for worship!

  2. Eilene Lyon says:

    My grandfather had a similar story. It’s heartening that a community can come together to create an institution to serve their needs.

  3. Pat Lowe says:

    This was so interesting. I loved lesrning more about your mother and your family’s association with Brentwood Methodist Church.

  4. Barb LaFara says:

    You made me cry a little there at the end… I wonder why so many of the Methodist churches have closed. The ME church my grandparents married in is now a community center. Thanks for sharing.

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