Which way is forward?
Throughout scripture, it seems like everybody’s always on the move — going from one place to another, on a journey from where they are to where they need to be. We see this movement when Abraham and Sarah leave their home to go to a land that God has promised them. We see it when Moses leads the people out of slavery in Egypt and through the wanderings in the wilderness with the goal of the Promised Land. We see Jesus leading his disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee or up through Samaria — both places populated by people very different from themselves. Then Paul and his associates travel throughout the Roman Empire to share the Good News.
And it’s also clear that throughout the ages, for all of us, regardless of the details, our individual faith is also a journey — and likewise, every community of faith is on its own journey.
So it is with our church and our remarkable journey traveled by those who went before us sometimes led through wilderness times. This community of faith began its journey together in 1853 when the first members of a Methodist Society in Fort Worth held its services in homes and the old Masonic Hall on Weatherford Street. That journey of faith led those visionary members to purchase their first property and build the first building during the severe depression of 1873 – 1874 at the corner of Fourth and Jones Streets.
The year 1887 was the climax of a two-year drought, which was the worst recorded in Texas’ history at that time. However, in that year, the church once again stepped out on faith when a new brick structure was erected in 1887 at the same site and expanded four years later. You can still visit the site of our beginnings and read the historical marker on that spot.
Knowing that they were landlocked, the church leaders once again stepped forward in faith and relocated to a beautiful building at 7th and Taylor Streets in 1908. It was obvious that they were once again becoming landlocked and so after only 21 years in that location, the congregation broke ground for the current building on October 29, 1929 — the day the Stock Market crashed. Those courageous and visionary leaders continued with the construction and we have them to thank for the majestic place of worship we enjoy today.
This isn’t just a story about buildings. It is a story of a church — people of faith on a journey. There were many points — 1873, 1887, 1908, and 1929 — when the arguments against moving forward must have made all the sense in the world, and the arguments for moving forward must have seemed foolish to many. But, that’s the way it is with a journey, isn’t it?
With faith it’s hard to even imagine, our church leaders moved forward on what they knew was the next step of our First Church journey. They knew that building this beautiful building, anchoring our faith community on the West Side of Downtown Fort Worth, was the race that had been laid out for them.. They understood that even though most of them wouldn’t be around to know the next three or four generations who have grown up and make this their church home, they knew it was their legacy to leave. It was their race to run.
I believe that a church cannot stand still. It is part of who we are that we are on the move. As a community of faith, we know that being on this journey together means we will be moving forward. The responsibility for building a vibrant, faithful future rests in our hands. It is our race to run, now. It is “the race that is laid out in front of us.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) The question for us, I think, is twofold: How are we going to move forward — and what direction is forward? Will we be able to, as the scripture instructs us, “throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter?”
I look forward to exploring these questions and more with you this Sunday as we continue our “Heart of the City” worship series.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster,
So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is — what is good and pleasing and mature.
So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.