By Alexa Jenkins, Copy Editor The Mississippi Collegian
The following article appears with permission of The Mississippi Collegian.
Photo right: Affordable print t-shirts, wood crosses and Christian books can be purchased at The Hour.
Photo courtesy of The Hour.
Photo below, right: The host of The Hour, Rev. Steve Casteel cut the ribbon during the official opening of The Hour Gallery and Gifts in Clinton. Photo courtesy of Robbie Followell.
A new store has opened its doors at 306 Jefferson Street between James & Leigh and Pentimento's called The Hour Gallery & Gifts. This book and gift shop is named after The United Methodist Hour TV and radio program and one of the many goals of the store is to build relationships with the viewers of the TV program and the community.
The store is run primarily by Anthony Thaxton, a Mississippi College alumnus, who produces The United Methodist Hour television program. He studied art education at MC, and he taught courses there and in the Clinton Public Schools before going to work full-time with The Hour. Thaxton says he loves MC, and he attributes the direction of his career and his life as a whole to his time at MC.
Thaxton works closely with Steve Casteel, the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Clinton, who hosts the television program. The two of them, along with Keith Tonkel, who has hosted a segment for 38 years, and LaToya Redd, film and produce the 30-minute show weekly. The United Methodist Hour, which began as a radio ministry over 40 years ago, now airs on television in 18 cities, including Memphis, Tennessee, and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and 15 cities in Mississippi. The program has a dedicated viewership, and it is shown in nursing homes, hospitals, and prisons across the state.
Thaxton says the idea behind opening a store was to give viewers access to a location associated with the program. In the eight years since he began producing the show, the majority of segments were filmed in a studio located in Thaxton's garage. The storefront, he explains, provides a place to build relationships, as well as an accessible location for recording. Almost as soon as the store was open one viewer drove from Vicksburg to Clinton to visit the store and meet the people who she watches on television each week. This is an example of another goal Thaxton has for the store. He says they want to "be good for the city," and bring people to Clinton who may not have come otherwise. Thaxton recognizes the good coming out of MC and the good things happening on the Brick Streets, and he hopes to not only be a part of those things, but also draw more people into the area to participate in and recognize things that are going on in Clinton.
The Hour is a welcoming shop, and it offers a variety of gifts and books available for purchase. Books written by Thaxton and Casteel, as well as other authors, are available for sale. Proceeds from the sale of items including pottery, t-shirts, and stationery are returned to Made by Grace and Hard Places ministries, among others. The store also functions as a gallery for Thaxton, as well as other local artists. The proceeds from Thaxton's art are also immediately returned to the operation of the store. In addition to his books for sale, Casteel also has a stand of $2 "Once-Read Comic Books," and local musicians such as the Tom Edwards band have albums available for purchase. The variety of gifts, books, and artwork available in the shop means that there is something for everyone, especially as Christmas shopping season approaches.
Thaxton and Casteel are looking forward to working with MC and Main Street Clinton in the months and years to come, building relationships and telling the stories they find. Thaxton sums up their purpose: "We try to take the gifts God has given us and use them to provide hope and encouragement to others."
The Hour Gallery & Gifts is open Tuesday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The United Methodist Hour airs in Jackson on Sundays at 7:00 a.m. on WDBD (FOX) Channel 6 and at 8:00 a.m. on WLOO Channel 11, and more information is available at thehour.org.