Rev John Lester Greenwood

This was how people especially in the Methodist Church remembered my grandfather. I may be the only person who remembers bits and pieces of this, but here you go. My Grandpa lives in the memory of many among these words.

Prior to joining the Iowa Conference, Rev. Greenwood served churches in Springfield and Mt. Carmel, Missouri, Norton and Livingston, New Jersey, Willow Springs, St. Louis and Bolivar, Missouri, Nevada, Dunlap, Dow City, Harlan and Centerville, Iowa.  Rev. Greenwood’s pastorate in Clarinda began in 1949.  He had joined the St. Louis Conference, graduated from Drury College in Springfield , Missouri and Drew Theological Seminary prior to attending Columbia University where he earned a masters degree in social science.  During his first year the Memorial study and church offices were built and supplied with the finest furniture and equipment.  The policy of the rotation of the Official Board was adopted that limited the trustees to a six years of service.  There was a three year limit to all stewards and committees.

Rev. Lawrence Lacour and his evangelistic troup helped with the services in 1949 and 1951.  Rev. Greenwood’s “Fill a pew” Sundays were a big success.  Three hundred and twenty pew captains took part.  Average attendance at church for that 12 week period was 459.  The membership of the church increased from 842 to 1001.  Two-hundred and forty-three were received during Rev. Greenwood’s pastorate.  The church growth necessitated two services. The Easter offering boxes were collected in bushel baskets.

The scout troop 203 was one of the best in the southwest council with 44 boys being involved.  Six were Eagle Scouts and three received the God and Country award.  The cub pack of 90 boys was so large that it was divided with part of the pack being sponsored by the Christian Church.

Rev. J. Lester Greenwood was well known for his encouragement of youth. During his 9 years, the youth program soared to new heights with weekly MYF meetings (planned and carried out by the members), large choirs, district and conference participation, and summer trips. Mr. Kelley, H.S. band director, led the youth choir in the early 1950s, with a dozen plus junior and senior high members. These young people sang at the early (8:30 a.m.) service, every Sunday, with weekly practices Wednesday nights.

The MYF quickly developed its own leadership, emerging from the former Epworth League and the University of Life . Young people would gather at the church during the afternoon to plan the evening program – built around three parts of games, lesson and worship – then would lead the program for the rest of the membership. The MYFund collected hundreds of dollars for conference mission projects. Rev. Greenwood even found a juke box to put in the church basement so records could be played for “folk games,” which he often called himself.

Special events included youth nights for the Lacour Evangelistic Crusade.  The Lacour troupe traveled with four marimbas and a harp.  There was also a special visit by star miler Glenn Cunningham about 1955. The group was so impressed with his leadership that they accepted an invitation to visit his ranch in Kansas the next summer, sleeping four nights in the bunk houses, swimming in the leach infested creek, riding horses and spending time with the disadvantaged youth who were semi-permanent residents of the ranch.

The church hosted a “caravan” of MYF members from across the country who helped build a stronger program during a one-week program. Later, one local MYF member, John Woolson, traveled with a youth caravan to the south.  The local MYF group attended any and all of the sub-district ( Page County ) and district ( SW Iowa ) meetings held quarterly. They also had delegations of a half dozen members at the annual District Institute at Simpson College , and were represented at the South Iowa Conference annual assembly. No less than a half dozen youth went into some phase of church work from this period with others taking district and conference offices and participating in the short-term events.

Motivated to Christian Service were:  Louise Petre, Methodist Educational Assistant at Shenandoah; Janice Emley with the Lacour troup; Weldon McKee, Charlotte Murren and Sue Roberts to religious studies at Simpson College ; and Martha Larson as a missionary.

Family nights and class parties were regular events.  Methodist House was purchased in 1952 in order that the expanding Sunday School classes might have a place to meet.

Methodist Park (land donated to the church by Les Walker, now part of Nodaway Valley Park ) was developed during his pastorate and many parishioners recall the family gatherings at that sight.  Jennie Schenck remembers the hours Earl and Allen spent mowing.  The white cross at the top of the hill was a perfect “place of solitude.”  The cross could also be seen from the highway to remind travelers of our faith. 

Rev. Greenwood was a pacifist who did not allow his boys to play with toy guns and did not want the congregation to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” because he did not feel that marching off to war was proper.

Mary Price remembers his sermons centering on being non-judgmental.   He used stories as illustrations in his sermons.  During his pastorate he also promoted a “buy dry” campaign. 

Rev. Greenwood’s service was not limited to Clarinda.  Through Rev. Lacour he became involved in a mission program in Japan .  He traveled to Japan to inspire and help establish other pastorates.  A letter from Rev. and Mrs. Sen-ichi Hanafusa of the Kitakata, Christian Church  thanks Rev. Greenwood and the people of Clarinda for their support . . . “especially the motorcycle for transportation”.  Two members of the Yamato church had opened services in four other villages.  The letter continues, “They are burning now, putting into the practice the missionary spirit which you emphasized.”

After returning from one trip to Japan the Greenwoods hosted an all-church Japanese style dinner in Fellowship Hall.  Everyone sat on the floor for the meal.

In addition, assistance was sent the Methodist Mission in Deccan , India to provide medical services.  Rev. and Mrs. P.A. Schecreadam reported that  “. . . we have decided to come back to the ministry of healing in the mission field.  We are posted to a village which is 11 miles from the city.  The name of the village is Kardada.  All around that village there are 20 villages which have no medical aid. . . The Christian Church in India and especially in our villages are grateful to you and to all the members in your church.  May the Lord bless you all.”

A total of $3,690 was contributed to missionary services in 1955-56 plus an additional $1,700 given by the W.S.C.S.

The Greenwoods retired in Clarinda.  As they were aging, Mrs. Greenwood was heard to say that they were doing “pretty good.  Some days we’re pretty and some days we’re good.”


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