- Associated Press - Sunday, August 10, 2014

ENID, Okla. (AP) - An Enid church last week celebrated a relationship lasting far longer than most such relationships last.

Enid United Pentecostal Church has been led by the Rev. Jack Garrison since Aug. 2, 1964, the Enid News and Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1qQokQw ).

Matthew Martin, district superintendent for the Oklahoma district since 2001, gave the sermon at this month’s worship service.

Martin noted that Garrison’s length of time with the Enid congregation is unusual.

“We don’t celebrate this very often, 50 years at the same church,” Martin said.

Martin explained that the local congregation elects a pastor and the pastor remains as long as both the pastor and the congregation choose.

As district superintendent, Martin oversees the operation of UPC churches throughout the state.

“We have about 118 churches in the Oklahoma District,” Martin said.

He’s been acquainted with Garrison about 30 years.

“I’ve known him since about 1984, when I was a traveling evangelist and he had me come preach at the church,” Martin said. “I became a pastor at a church in Lone Grove in 1985. At that point, our association became as fellow pastors.”

Over 100 members and friends of the small church packed the pews this month, still filtering in after the service was kicked off with Garrison’s son-in-law Danny Jones leading the singing.

Young and old, from as close as Enid and as far as Texas, people came. Nalan Chennault, pastor of Lighthouse Tabernacle church at Guthrie, came using a cane to make his way through the crowded church.

Several other ministers came as well, several of them stepping to the lectern to say a few words in Garrison’s honor. Among them were Kevin Borders, pastor of Apostolic Worship Center in Norman and Stephen Binion, of First UPC in Midwest City.

A reception and fellowship followed the worship service.

Garrison was born and raised in Claremore, graduating high school in 1955. Three years later he became a traveling evangelist, making a cross-country circuit of revivals, conferences and camp meetings.

A Jan. 18, 1960, car wreck in Michigan slowed his traveling down for a bit, but all together, he spent six years traveling before being called to Enid by the local church. At that time, the church met at 26th and Oak. The building where the church now meets, 1168 E. Chestnut, was purchased later.

“I told my state officials I’d stay a year,” Garrison said. “I think my year’s about up.”

After 14 months in Enid, Garrison married the sweetheart he’d met at a church event in 1958. He and Marilyn Garrison raised three daughters, Carla Garrison Humphrey, now of Plymouth, Ind.; Vonda Garrison Jones, Owasso; and Devra Garrison Boyd, Owasso. They are grandparents to 10 children, nine of them living.

Garrison said he’s had opportunities to go elsewhere, but Enid is where he and Marilyn Garrison have chosen to remain.

“When we drove into this town, she fell in love with it and she’s been in love with it ever since,” Garrison said.

Garrison attended Phillips University, getting bachelor’s degrees in business administration, English and accounting; master’s degrees in history and education; and a master of divinity and a doctorate degree in ministry. He also earned a master’s degree in liberal studies from the University of Oklahoma.

From 1973 to 2001, he taught history classes at Enid High School.

“When I retired from the school, if I hadn’t had the church, I’d have gone crazy,” Garrison said. “I missed those kids.”

More recently, Garrison worked with Barbara Westberg to compile a book published in 2012 by the Oklahoma District, “Claiming the Land: A History of the United Pentecostal Church in the Great State of Oklahoma.”

Sunday attendance at Enid UPC has been up and down through the years, depending on factors such as northwest Oklahoma’s economy, but the modest-sized congregation has a generous heart, Garrison said. The church ranks high among UPC congregations in the U.S. for support of missionary activities.

“In 2013, we were 14th in missionary giving,” Garrison said.

Through half a century at Enid UPC, Garrison said he’s seen a lot of people come through the door and be helped. The sense of satisfaction he’s gotten from seeing the congregation bless one another has kept the job rewarding.

“I’ve been so abundantly blessed,” Garrison said.

The congregation currently owns property on Randolph just off Garland, where they eventually plan to build a new church, Garrison said.


Information from: Enid News & Eagle, https://www.enidnews.com

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