Faithfully Serving the Omaha Community for over 107 years
Clair Memorial United Methodist Church
Monday, December 11, 2023
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About Clair Memorial United Methodist Church   
Clair Memorial United Methodist Church has celebrated 104 years as of August 2017 of ministering to the Omaha community. The endurance and durability of the church has at its roots a lot of hard work and Christian dedication from the members of the many congregations that span across the years. As so many things change in the secular world, other things remain the same in the world of the church: steadfast members willing to engage in the work of the Lord.
Beginning in 1913 and with the help of Mr. Harvey Grove and the Nebraska Methodists, Rev. Dudley Smith and a small group of Christian workers were able to secure a building. Named in honor of Mr. Grove (for his support and contributions), the Grove Methodist Episcopal Church was established at 22nd and Seward; it became the first “home” of what would ultimately become the church, as we know it in 2013.
Rev. G. G. Logan, an appointee from the Mississippi Conference, served as the second pastor of the church from 1915 to 1918. The Reverends L. S. Deas and T. S. Sanders, each of whom served a year, succeeded Rev. Logan. These ministers, dedicated men in the service of God, provided support to ‘growing’ the Grove church and building its community of saints.
During the next nine years, Grove Methodist Episcopal Church was fortunate to have several ministers with vision to lead its congregations: Reverends E. W. Cox, Sims and Ellis (from New York) began to take the church in needed directions. Before Rev. Ellis was transferred to Springfield IL, he planted the seeds of an idea to move the church into a smaller property.
In 1927, after Rev. T. V. Orville (from the Louisiana Conference) was assigned to the Omaha church, the congregation did, in fact, move to a smaller building, which was located at 22nd and Miami Streets. At that time, the church was re-named Clair Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of the resident Bishop, Matthew W. Clair, Sr. {After his death, the name of the church was changed to Clair Memorial Methodist Church.]
Following Rev. Orville, Rev. Higgs, Rev. James McKnight and Rev. Alfred Clay pastured to the congregations of Clair. In their [each] commitment to religious ministry to church membership, they made invaluable contributions to the Clair church family.
The 30’s were a time when the nation was in the throes of the Great Depression. Clair was not exempt. In 1932, Clair lost its parsonage. Because of the efforts of Rev. W. C. Conwell who pastored the church from 1932 to 1935 and assistance from the Board of Extension, the church was saved.
Rev. G. D. Hancock was the next minister to serve. He was responsible for Inter-Denominational Union Services and for engaging youth in the work of the church. He encouraged them to take an active role in the Quarterly and Annual Church Conferences.
Notably, the next minister to pastor at Clair served a longer term 7 years – than any of the previous eleven leaders. Rev. C. C. Reynolds was able to accomplish many goals during that period. The membership grew. Church organizations became more viable. The church paid off the $9000 debt owed to the Board of Extension and purchased another parsonage at 2028 Miami. Rev. Reynolds’ musical background was a significant factor in building a choir that was recognized as one of the best in the city. In addition to leading the religious life of the church, Rev. Reynolds served as a member of the Council of Churches, the Inter-Denominational Ministerial Alliance, Methodist City Union and hosted radio programs for KOAD and KFAB.
In 1945, a Sociology instructor at Clark College was appointed to succeed Rev. Reynolds. Rev. C. K. Hayes worked with associate ministers J. E. Wade and Marion Jones. The administrative hierarchy included District Superintendent (Topeka) Rev. J. J. Johnson and Bishop E. W. Kelley of St. Louis, MO.
1958 was another keystone year in the life of the church. Clair purchased a property at 2243 Evans Street. This building would be home to the church for the next twenty-five years. On Palm Sunday, the congregation marched from the 22nd and Miami building to the Evans Street Church. Credited with this move was the Rev. E. T. Streeter who would serve as Clair’s leader for a period of 19 years.   He also served as Superintendent of the Nebraska Conference for three years.
In 1968, the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction of which Clair was a part, was dissolved. A re-uniting of the Evangelical, United Brethren and Methodist Episcopal churches resulted in a merger that formed the United Methodists.
During the decade of the ‘70s when Clair was 50+ years old, more new programs were established that put the church squarely on the map in Omaha. A day care center and a drug education program were just two initiatives under Rev. Haswell G. Young, who was assigned to Clair in 1970. He came from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA.
Two years later (in 1972), another ‘young’ minister from Chattanooga TN was appointed to lead Clair. During the tenure of Rev. Charles E. Young, church programs thrived and grew. The day care program expanded to serve in excess of seventy-five children. A new P. A. system added a new dimension to church services while the purchase of a new Hammond organ and a ‘new’ Joyful Sounds choir enhanced the music ministry of the church. Additionally, Rev. Young and his congregation provided a financial base for what was to come in terms of Clair’s expansion. He would die in office.
To fill the vacancy created by Rev. Young’s death, the youngest minister in Clair’s history was appointed in 1958. Rev. Aaron D. Black, of Dallas, TX, at 34, had many visions for Clair… vistas not yet traversed. Perhaps most bold was the possibility of building a new church. Other alternatives were to complete badly needed renovations to the Evans Street property; or, to purchase an existing facility.
Not only is the month of August celebratory relative to the church anniversary, but 30 years ago, in August 1983, the minister and congregation moved to the church purchased at 5544 Ames, its current location. During the past twenty years, the sanctuary has been refurbished with stained glass brought from the Evans Street location and several other areas of the building have been remodeled.
Building on the strengths of the past and continuing in the leadership tradition of those who preceded him, Dr. Everett Reynolds, Sr. came to Clair in 1987 from the LaSalle United Methodist Church in St. Louis MO. His personal ‘signature’ was planning and implementation through total church involvement. He launched the Pastor’s Cabinet, the Twenty Plus Club, the Solace Committee and the Ambassadors and Visitors Club, church groups some of which continue to exist. Dr. Reynolds retired in 1991 after serving as Clair’s leader for four years.
With regard to the church, Rev. William M. Williams, Jr. ushered in the last decade of the 2oth century. A native Omahan who previously pastured in Woodriver, NE and in Texas, the 1991 appointee was devoted to community outreach. Additionally, he represented Clair on the Ministerial Alliance council and at annual conferences of the United Methodist Churches. He would provide spiritual leadership to the church for 7 years before being appointed as District Superintendent/Scottsbluff.
Of particular importance in the life of Clair Memorial United Methodist Church was the appointment of its first woman minister, Rev. Rosalie N. Smith Anderson in June of 1998. As a pastor, Rev. Anderson brought a non-traditional flavor to her ministry, strengthened by perspectives (female) not heretofore known. A strong advocate for service to the underserved, she instituted ministries for prison populations and for persons dealing with substance abuse issues. A capable organizer, Rev. Anderson was able to establish processed for better managing the business of the church. As one of 5 living pastors of Clair, she continues to be acknowledged and appreciated by persons whose lives were changed for the better by her ministry.
The Rev. Curnell Graham came to shepherd the congregation of Clair in 2002. This South Carolina native and graduate of Duke Divinity School has been busy creating a different ‘flavor’ at Clair. His experience serving churched in South Carolina, Michigan and Ohio is evident as he establishes new programs and/or broadens existing ones. Clair is a beehive of activity: Bible Study three times a week, Wednesday evening Hour-of-Power services, and a new music ministry – including guest directors – which has already performed an Easter Cantata and traveled to Kearney, NE and Battle Creek, MI. Rev. Graham was spirit-filled and dedicated with reverence of the past and his energy and enthusiasm for the future was right-on-time during his six years.
Presently, Rev. Portia Annette Cavitt has been our shepherd since July 1st, 2008. She came from the African Methodist Episcopal Church and is affectionately called Pastor P. Since coming to Clair, Pastor P has established a 10 week “Summer Leadership Academy” for children 3-16 years old, instituted Ministering Programs for boys & girls (Destiny’s Child & Boyz ll Men), developed a functioning computer lab and after school tutorial program, addressed various community health issues, growing participation in the 26 plot Community Garden Project, revamped music ministry to include: Youth Choir, Young Adult Choir & Male Chorus, Enhanced Media Ministry, Outreach Ministry and Worship Service for Lutheran Nursing Home, Four years in a row "Power to end Stroke walk" most participates winner, community partnerships with the Omha Police Department (NorthWest), Live Well Omaha, Charles Drew Health Center, U.S. Bank, My Sisters Keeper, Douglas County Heath Department, Lighthouse Wellness Center,  Expanded our Outreach Ministry with the Lot-to-know yearly parking lot party in May, safe community fun night every October 31st from 6pm-8pm (Harvest Festival), the yearly church giveaway in December and teaching various bible studies of spiritual growth and discipleship (Living Your Strengthen, Purpose Driven Life, Stir Up Your Gift, etc. and much, much, more.
Clair is a Church that is “Reclaiming the Legacy” based upon our rich history.