Former pastor Monk Bryan dies at age 97

Saturday, August 27, 2011 | 9:08 p.m. CDT; updated 6:07 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011

COLUMBIA—Bishop Alonzo Monk Bryan, who served as pastor of Missouri United Methodist Church for nearly 20 years, died Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, in Dallas. He was 97.

Bryan served as senior pastor of the downtown church from 1957 until 1976, leaving to become the bishop of Nebraska. His son, the Rev. Jim Bryan, served as pastor of the same church until 2010.

“I have 66 years of stories,” Jim Bryan said. “He taught us camping, canoeing and the wonder of traveling and seeing new places.”

Bishop Bryan was born July 25, 1914, in Blooming Grove, Texas, to Gideon Bryan and Era (Monk) Bryan. His father was a Methodist minister, and his mother was the daughter of a Methodist pastor.

In high school, Bryan worked on his uncle’s ranch in west Texas.

“He thought that he might just be a rancher,” said Jim Bryan. “One thing that the Methodists believe is that a person is called into the ministry. He said if it weren’t for that call, then he assumed he would work with cattle and horses for the rest of his life.”

But Bishop Bryan felt that he did hear the call, continuing a long line of pastors, including his grandfather and namesake, Alonzo Monk.

“My father’s love of the UMC was unsurpassed," Jim Bryan said. "Again, he’s one of a kind, and there’s lots of people who loved the church, but nobody loved it more,” 

The tradition has continued; Bishop Bryan's grandson, Andy Bryan, is an elder of the West Missouri Conference in Springfield.

"I knew he wasn’t going to live forever, but then again, I was kind of thinking that he was going to live forever,” Andy Bryan wrote on his blog, Enter the Rainbow.

Bishop Bryan's first wife, Corneille Downer, and his parents, Gideon Bryan and Era Monk Bryan, died earlier. 

He is survived by his wife, Twila of Dallas; his children, Lucy Barlow of Dallas, Robert Bryan of Madison, Wis., and Jim Bryan of Columbia; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

A memorial service was held Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in Dallas.

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