EDITOR’S NOTE: Students from the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism wrote about people and places around Denton County as part of their spring coursework.
KRUM — The Rev. Christy Thomas stands at the front of the small sanctuary in a contemporary suit, without the trappings that might be associated with a pastor.
The sermon for the week at the First United Methodist Church in Krum is on the necessity of forgiveness in day-to-day life. The congregation for the 10 a.m. service is a small, young and energetic group. After the sermon, a final prayer and a final contemporary song, the crowd shuffles out the door and a new crowd moves in.
This second service is more packed than the first. The larger, primarily older congregation also hears a sermon on forgiveness from Thomas, but this sermon goes deeper, using Scripture from the King James Bible. Songs are sung from the dated, fading red hymnal as the service goes on.
Krum has been traditionally a rural city that prided itself on ranching and farming. In the 1950s, it was a city that could brag that it was the biggest inland wheat exporter in the state. Today, those industries are a shadow of what they once were, and the city faces new growing pains.
Krum’s population grew from 1,979 in 2000 to more than 4,000 residents in 2010. This growth can be felt across the city from the two new housing developments, which sit next to cow pastures. The growth has brought in a younger crowd to Krum, who come looking for either a place to own a house and a small plot of land, or an escape from the busy life.
In step with this growth in the community, the First United Methodist Church has seen its membership grow more than 50 percent in the last decade.
To Rod Barthold, 78, the church itself has not changed as much as the society outside it. Times have changed, and the concept of “Sunday best” is being replaced with shorts.
“Children aren’t as well-mannered and polite as they once were,” he said. “As children, we were more intimidated and were more respectful of our elders.”
Barthold, whose roots run deep in Krum, can remember the original church back before the steeple was changed. He remembers when the building was expanded to add classrooms.
Otherwise, he says the building hasn’t changed much since 1966, when he moved away to get closer to jobs. Back then, the city’s population was only 500, and he worried that Krum was doomed to disappear off the map. After retiring in 1997, he returned to his hometown and home church.
“The attendees seem younger,” he said. “That might be because I am getting older.”
The current church building is a simple, modern building facing a major road in town.
A white cross sits on the front of the building. The church grounds still show the signs of the 2009 construction, with gravel roads for construction equipment still evident on the outskirts of the property.
The original church building still stands only a few blocks away. The whitewashed building sits atop a set of crumbling, oft-repaired concrete steps.
The building is a shadow of the current building in both size and scale, but it shows character in its simple 1920s architecture. It served the church from the mid-1920s until the move. It’s now a privately owned wedding chapel.
Thomas came to the church in 2006. Thomas, who had served in the clergy for the United Methodist Church since 1999, took over for Kerri Smith, who was a new pastor trying to grow in her role with the church.
“When I moved in, I brought depth, whereas Kerri brought excitement,” Thomas said. “When I came here, I wanted to make the church an active part of the community and not simply a training church for young clergy.”
Thomas described the Krum church as a “training church” with pastors who didn’t stay long and primarily used the church as a place to learn. She felt the church was not able to serve the community as well as it could with a long-term, experienced pastor.
Thomas, who grew up in Dallas, felt the call to serve at the age of 20, but couldn’t find an outlet in the church environment at that time. As a woman, she felt limited in what roles she could fulfill in the church.
It wasn’t until 30 years later that she joined the ministry within the United Methodist Church, serving in Wichita Falls and later in Dallas.
Thomas felt that for the church to grow past its traditional, aging congregation, it would have to appeal to the city’s newer residents. These changes have not always been easy to accept for many members of the church, with the transition to the new building being one major obstacle.
“It wasn’t until after we moved in that it became an issue for some,” Thomas said. “After going in, they realized it wasn’t going to be the same.”
Jessi Soule serves as the youth director for the congregation and has been a part of the church since she was 3. She knew it had to change to adapt.
“The move to the new building was a hard one because it was the church I grew up in,” she said. “Once we got into the new building, it was really exciting and nice.”