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From his column Past to Present

past-to-present-01-14-1Dr. Sergio Franco once told me three women should be credited with establishing the Church of the Nazarene’s Hispanic ministries in the western United States: Maye McReynolds, Santos Elizondo, and Mrs. E. Y. (Mozelle) Davis. The story begins in Los Angeles with Maye McReynolds.

She was born in 1854 in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, and educated in public schools. She became a school teacher herself. A Baptist since conversion at age 12, she married Aaron McReynolds in 1874, and they moved to California nine years later.

Aaron McReynolds established a general store in South Pasadena and, by 1886, also worked for the San Gabriel Valley Railroad as its local station agent. Maye took a job, too. In March 1886, South Pasadena’s first telegraph office opened with her as operator. A few years later, when Aaron had to devote more time to his store, she succeeded him as station agent, working now for the Santa Fe transcontinental railroad. Station agents lived at the depot, which had living quarters on the second floor. That is where two of Maye’s six children were born.[1]

We do not know how Maye became acquainted with the Nazarenes; however, Phineas Bresee was a prominent Methodist pastor in Pasadena during the 1880s, which may have led to contact with the McReynolds family. In any event, a South Pasadena Church of the Nazarene was organized by 1899, and Aaron and Maye gave it some support, though they were active members of Los Angeles First Church at this time.

The crucial event for Maye McReynolds was her experience of entire sanctification. E. A. Girvin, who first met her at about this time, described her as “a radiant spirit” with “a great passion for souls.” He added: “Like her beloved Savior, she went about doing good.”[2]

She began reorienting her life soon after this experience. She studied Spanish, resigned both of her secular jobs, and became a remarkable missionary-pastor. By 1904, she was spearheading a new mission “in the heart of Los Angeles” that invited Spanish-speaking people, particularly Mexicans, into union with Christ and the Church of the Nazarene.

By 1906, the Mexican mission conducted five services a week and operated a Sunday school that averaged 40 in attendance.[3] Maye was ordained an elder in October 1906. The mission grew into a congregation known as Los Angeles First Mexican Church of the Nazarene, and she was its pastor for nearly 30 years. She was also instrumental in launching a second Hispanic Nazarene church in Los Angeles.

Like her mentor Phineas Bresee, Maye McReynolds was pastor of a congregation but came to function in a wider role as a “superintendent”—a title given her as early as 1906, as Hispanic ministries spread from Los Angeles south to Mexico and then east along the international border to Texas.

Her influence was extended in many ways. She traveled to other communities and held street meetings in the Hispanic sections of town, conducted revival services, and engaged in door-to-door visitation.

Her influence was also extended through her converts, like the young man who left Los Angeles to plant a Hispanic ministry in Kofa, Arizona, or like Santos Elizondo, a woman McReynolds met in Los Angeles and counseled through her conversion and call to ministry. Sister Santos, as she became known, assisted Maye for many months before moving to El Paso, Texas, where she started a work. A few years later, she moved to Juarez, Mexico, starting yet another mission and an orphanage and enjoying a remarkable career.

McReynolds exercised her wider leadership in various ways—periodically visiting different Spanish-speaking churches in California and other Southwestern states, counseling home mission pastors through correspondence, and publishing a Spanish edition of Herald of Holiness, which she edited. The paper circulated among Hispanic Nazarenes in the West, and was shipped to churches in Mexico and South America for distribution.

An official action of the Third General Assembly (Nashville, 1911) recognized her and missionaries L. S. Tracy (India) and S. M. Stafford (Mexico) as equivalent in status with the district superintendents and granted them seating privileges as superintendent delegates. McReynolds and Tracy appeared in the official group photograph taken at the assembly of the general and district superintendents present.[4]

Rev. Maye McReynolds’ philosophy was summed up in these words that she wrote: “He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich . . . [and] we do not forget the day He said, ‘Come, follow me.’”

After an illness, she died on August 2, 1932. Her funeral was conducted in Los Angeles First Church.

Stan Ingersol is a Church historian and manager of the Nazarene Archives. He recently abridged the book Phineas Bresee—Pastor to the People by Carl O. Bangs.

[1] The Quarterly Magazine (Summer 2004), 64.

[2] Herald of Holiness (Mar. 30, 1932), 16.

[3] Nazarene Messenger (May 10, 1906), 11.

[4] Official Minutes, Third General Assembly of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene (1911), 16. And Nazarene Messenger (Nov. 2, 1911), 1.

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