Before the congregation of First Christian Church of Waxahachie celebrated its 140th anniversary of spreading His word, four longtime members and leaders recalled its humble beginnings.
First Christian Church initially organized as Main Street Christian Church in Waxahachie on Aug. 25, 1878. At that time, the church was under the direction of Addison Clark.
Fun fact: he and his brother, Randolph Clark, founded the church, as well as Texas Christian University. According to the TCU website, "the brothers founded TCU in 1873 in Thorp Spring, Texas, as AddRan Male and Female College."
A total of 28 members chartered Main Street Christian Church in a small, white-frame building on Main Street. Unfortunately, the building was destroyed by a fire in 1892. Several years later, In 1911, a new brick building opened across the street and held services until 1962. The structure does not exist anymore, and the Waxahachie Fire Station No. 1 now stands where the church once did on Water Street.
On Monday afternoon, three of the oldest living members of the congregation joined together around a conference table to reminisce on the history of the church.
Don and Marilyn Locke have served in the church since 1959. Marilyn recalled taking her 19-month-old daughter to the bathroom at the brick building.
“When you walked in there, there was a hole in the floor, and you could see the dirt underneath, and I thought, ‘I’m not bringing my baby here anymore.’ At that time they had already told us they had bought property and we would break ground in the spring,” she said.
The couple then recollected to when the church members broke ground in 1960 on the building on Brown Street.
“We caravanned from the old church that Sunday morning. Everybody got in their cars and drove out here,” Don remembered.
“It was just a field. And, KBEC was there,” Marilyn interjected.
At the time, the Brown Street location was considered at the north end of town, and the lot was reasonably priced since it was not located downtown. The land was officially purchased in 1958.
“It was a cotton field,” Marilyn said.
Senior pastor, Marcia Hagee, said the interurban train also ran down Brown Street in front of the church.
Alicia Garoutte, an administrative assistant who has been with the church for 62 years, noted that Hagee is the first female senior pastor at First Christian Church.
The land provided adequate parking and the town projected to growth north. At that time, the property was purchased for the new high school, “but nothing had happened for several more years,” Marilyn added.
Hagee stated that First Christian Day School opened in 1982, which quickly sparked Marilyn’s memory. She recalled enrolling her son, Kevin, in the first kindergarten class — comprised of less than 15 students — in the half-day program.
“At the time there wasn’t public school for kindergarten. This was 1965,” Marilyn said.
Now, 115 students are enrolled at First Christian Day School from two-year-olds through sixth grade, with all classes capped at 12 students.
Other notable moments in the church's history include the first Easter sunrise service in 1938 (according to a Daily Light article written in 1951), as well as the dedication of the sanctuary and one educational wing at the current church on April 30, 1961.
Needless to say, there was plenty to celebrate for the 140-year-old church and its congregation on Sunday.
Before the church members feasted together, they received a message from Reverend Dr. Newell Williams, the president of Bright Divinity School at Texas Christian University. The title of the sermon was “From the past will come our future" and focused on the history of First Christian Church and how the traditions are understood and incorporated in moving forward.
Hagee mentioned that TCU is born out of the Christian Church Dispels of Christ Movement and that First Christian Church evolved from the frontier movement.
“On the frontier moving west, the old denominational categories that separated people didn’t work, and if you were in this denomination you weren’t supposed to share communion with someone from that denomination,” Hagee elaborated.
The message also focused on unity and that the church overcame the false barriers of denominationalism.
Currently, the church participates in ecumenical mission projects in the community with Jim Street Christian Church. Also, church members conduct a monthly food gathering for Waxahachie CARE and support the Southwestern Good Samaritan Ministries in Los Fresnos, near the border.
As Hagee looked at the next 140 years, she said, “We are looking forward to being a vibrant community that makes a noticeable impact in our neighborhood and outreach through Jim Christian Church.”
- - - - - -
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450