Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth breaks ground on expansion

CCC groundbreaking 8-23-15

Members of the Celebration Community Church Board of Directors join Rev. Carol A. West to turn the first shovelful of dirt to commence construction on a new community center in Fort Worth. (Photo courtesy of Celebration Community Church.)

The largest nondenominational church catering to the LGBT community in Tarrant County broke ground on a new facility for the LGBT community yesterday (Sunday, Aug. 23).

Once completed, leaders with Celebration Community Church say the Rev. Carol A. West Community Center will create a safe and inclusive space for the LGBT community.

New features will include more meeting space, enhanced recreational facilities and community gardens and a columbarium where church members can be laid to rest.

The church’s board voted to name the new building in honor West, who celebrates her 17th anniversary at the church this month.

“Quite often Rev. West speaks to us about stepping out on groundless ground,” said Ron Hill, chair of the board of directors. “It’s appropriate for us to remember that message as we step out in faith to build a church facility that will accommodate not only our growing congregation, but also the increasing number of GLBT community groups that rely on Celebration for meeting space.”

The new addition will include a formal entry lobby on the northwest corner of the property that will lead visitors to two large meeting rooms that, when combined, will accommodate 400 people.

The new structure will be tied to the existing sanctuary via a covered walkway.

Fundraising for the facility has been underway for the past few years.

Construction is expected to be completed in spring 2016.

—  James Russell

More from Decision Day in Fort Worth: Celebrating at Celebration Community Church

Photos by Cassie Quinn

—  Tammye Nash

‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood’

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In Texas, including at Fort Worth’s Celebration Community Church, you can get finally married.

Two men married tonight before hundreds of people in a hot, loud and packed Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth.

But you couldn’t tell anyone was uncomfortable. There were too many tears.

“By the powers invested in me by the state of Texas,”  the Rev. Carol West said to a cheering crowd, she pronounced the couple husband and husband.

The couple kissed.

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” West yelled to the crowd.

Shortly after, West’s long-time partner, Angela, surprised the pastor with a proposal. West accepted and a little later, showing off her new ring to a friend, she quipped with a smile, “She went to Jarrod.”

Inside the church, Jesse Contreas was still floored. He married his husband a year ago in New Mexico. Now they can renew their vows here, in Fort Worth. At Celebration.

Contreas works in HIV prevention. His office celebrated when they learned the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Those of us who knew the struggle knew this was an awesome day for the LGBT community,” he said.

Tori Kujala and I talked outside of the church about her feelings.

“I said it on Facebook best, ‘free at last, free at last, Great God above, free at last,’” the 2014 Tarrant County Pride grand marshal said.

She was at work, like most other people I talked to, when she heard the news.

Her boss actually told her when the news struck.

Kathryn Omarkhail and Denise Bennett walked up and were holding hands.

They looked like any other couple there. They were enthusiastic because their marriage is finally acknowledged by their home state.

In 2005, they were barreling on Interstate 35 past Calvary Cathedral while then-Gov. Rick Perry signed the state’s ban on same-sex marriage ban, Omarkhail said. They were driving by in U-Hauls. While Perry celebrated another campaign plank that summer, they were married and moving in together.

Don Kennedy may have been joking when he asked if pastors had set themselves on fire.

“I know plenty of people ready to roast their weenies over a spit fire,” he said. He was joking.

The feeling was palpable for any veteran of the movement for LGBT equality. Even in modern day LGBT debates, the nasty rhetoric is just part of the process. Still, it stings.

Today, June 26, 2015, wherever you were, it really was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

—  James Russell

Upcoming LGBT-friendly Easter events and services

EasterIf you’re looking for an LGBT- and family-friendly Easter service or event this weekend, check out the list below. Feel free to e-mail russell(at)dallasvoice(dot)com t add your event. I’ll be sure to get it up.

Dallas

Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road, hosts a Good Friday service at 7:15 p.m. and three Easter services at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, and 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 5. For more information call 214-351-1901 or visit CathedralofHope.org.

Grace United Methodist Church, 4105 Junius Street, hosts a Good Friday service 7–8 p.m. on Friday, April 3 and three Easter services from 8–11:45 a.m. Easter SONrise Service 8–9 a.m. followed by an Easter Egg Hunt at 9:30–10:15 am for children ages 3–12, and a worship service 10:30–11:45 a.m. on Sunday, April 5. For more information call 214-824-2533 or e-mail gumc@graceumcdallas.org.

Northaven United Methodist Church, 11211 Preston Road, hosts a Good Friday service at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3 and two Easter Sunday services from 7:30–11 a.m. Sunrise service 7:30 a.m. and a worship service at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 5 Easter Egg-stravaganza, an LGBT family friendly even from 10 a.m.–noon on Saturday, April 4. Easter egg hunts, raffle, egg races with prizes and photo opportunities with Easter Bunny. Doughnuts, kolaches and other sweets for sale with proceeds benefitting youth mission trips. For more information call 214-363-2479.

Fort Worth

Agape MCC, 4615 E. California Parkway, Fort Worth, hosts an an Easter egg hunt and fundraiser for Tarrant County Gay Pride Association from noon–5 p.m. on Saturday, April 4. For more information call or e-mail Richard Tinker at 817-921-3318 or tink2withu@aol.com. Join the church for a sunrise service at 7:15 a.m. followed by a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. and worship service at 10:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday, April 5.

Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvania Avenue, Fort Worth hosts a Tenebrae service at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 3 and Easter services from 6:30 a.m.–11 a.m. Sunrise service at 6:30 a.m. followed by breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Easter services at 9 and 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 5. For more information call or e-mail 817-335-3222 or celebration@celebrationtex.com.

—  James Russell

2014 Black Tie Dinner: The Night in Photos

The Sheraton Dallas hotel was wall-to-wall Saturday night for the 33rd annual Black Tie Dinner, which raised funds for local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign.

The event featured the presentation of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award to Mike Anglin, the Black Tie Media Award to Dale Hansen and the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award to attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, along with special appearances by NBA star Jason Collins and the Prop 8 plaintiffs.

Comedienne Dana Goldberg emcees the evening, which also featured entertainment by Alex Newell and Steve Grand.

Dallas Voice photographer Cassie Quinn captured the evening in photos:

—  Tammye Nash

Celebration Community Church announces plans for new center

Members of Celebration Community Church’s Capital Campaign Committee and Building Committee gather around a sign announcing The Rev. Carol A. West Community Center. The church held a steak cookout on Sunday, Aug. 19, to view the footprint for the planned expansion.

The congregation at Celebration Community Church celebrated the church’s upcoming expansion Sunday when details of the new community center were announced.

A capital campaign kicked off last year for the $1.3 million building and is expected to be complete by the end of 2013. Construction will take about a year.

More plans of the building were released Sunday. The building will serve as a meeting place for about 400 people and will be built north of the church with a covered walkway linking it to the current sanctuary. It will be named The Rev. Carol A. West Community Center in honor of West, who marked her 14th year at the church Sunday.

West said the name was announced again Sunday with the new expansion details after the church’s Board of Directors voted to name it for her after last year.

“I was very honored,” West told Instant Tea. “It was a very sweet surprise.”

West has seen the church grow from 35 members when she started more than a decade ago to the roughly 600 members now. She said the expansion will help the church, which is the largest Tarrant County church with a primary LGBT outreach, offer more groups and organizations to use the church as a meeting place.

“We’ve forged ahead in the community and this expansion is part of reaching out to the community,” she said.

Tom Guerin of Jepsen Guerin Architects in Dallas will be the architect on the project. Nan Faith Arnold of Nan Faith Arnold Co. in Dallas will serve as project manager.

To learn how you can support the capital campaign, call 817-335-3222.

Read the press release below.

—  Dallasvoice

Celebration Church kicks off capital campaign

Church campus will add space for meetings, dinners, recreational facilities, gardens, columbarium

Carol West

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth kicked off a $1.3 million campaign this week to build a community center that will be named for the Rev. Carol West.

West said that the church needs the additional space because the current facility is too small.

“When we get together for a dinner, we can’t all be seated,” she said.

The current fellowship hall seats about 130.

When West was hired 13 years ago, the church had a membership of 37. But that soon changed.

“We hit the ground running with programming,” West said, and the church grew rapidly.

Celebration bought the current church building, at 908 Pennsylvania Ave., from St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church in 2001, after St. John’s merged into a nearby United Church of Christ.

Today, more than 550 people belong to the nondenominational Celebration Church.

Pam Ibbotson, a church board member working on the capital campaign, said that $100,000 is already in the building fund and that another $250,000 needs to be raised before construction starts. She said the church members are hoping that will be within the next year.

“It’s hard to predict how long it will take,” Ibbotson said.

The balance of the construction budget will be funded through pledges.

Tom Guerin, of Jepsen Guerin Architects of Dallas, drew plans for the new building that will be attached to the fellowship hall.

After the plans for the project were drawn, the church hired Nan Faith Arnold as project manager. They met Arnold, who is co-chair of the Black Tie Dinner board of directors, through the annual fundraising event.

Arnold worked with them on another project: Members purchased a building in the same block as the church and donated it to the church. The building was renovated into Barron House, a full-time counseling center that now employs eight counselors.

Arnold served as project manager for that construction as well.

Arnold said that the new building will add 7,200 square feet of space and will be attached to the fellowship hall.

“It blends in with the existing structure and makes it more aesthetically pleasing,” Arnold said of the design for the expansion.

The main church building, built in 1950, has historic landmark status and will not be touched.

Meeting rooms, restrooms, storage and food pantry space will be added.

“There will be a wonderful lobby and a place for people who need to be dropped off,” West said.

The church has been collecting canned goods and distributing them mostly to other organizations that either have meals programs or their own pantries. Ibbotson said that often when a pallet of cans had been delivered in the past, the problem has been where to store them. The new building will solve that problem.

Another feature that will be added is a columbarium, a storage space for cremated remains. Arnold said that because those remains must be permanently stored, the church came up with a good master plan for the entire property.

She said that construction plans are still in the preliminary stage, but she expects the columbarium to begin with 40 to 80 niches for cremated remains.

Ibbotson said that they didn’t want to lose part of the community lawn, which the church uses for a number of outdoor events throughout the year. Garden and lawn space are provided in the master plan as well as additional parking.

Celebration Church has become a popular meeting place for the Fort Worth LGBT community, and Ibbotson said that several things prompted the LGBT community to meet at the church.

“When we became affiliated with Black Tie Dinner, we gained visibility in Fort Worth,” she said.

She said that West’s involvement in city matters, especially after the 2009 Rainbow Lounge raid, and her participation in police diversity training brought new recognition to the church.

The church has gained such attention in Fort Worth that Mayor Betsy Price spent the last Sunday before the election at Celebration Church, West said.

West doesn’t take personal credit for the  church’s growth and prominence.

Instead, she said, “We have a very generous congregation.”

The church has awarded 30 scholarships to area students who are not Celebration Church members. They have donated tons of food to about 50 different Fort Worth organizations that distribute food and serve meals. And they offer meeting space at no charge to LGBT groups like Fairness Fort Worth and other community organizations like Tarrant Dialysis.

And when the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Fort Worth Police Department needed a safe place to meet with the LGBT community after the Rainbow Lounge raid, the church was the meeting place, with West on hand to offer a calming voice.

West said that when the Barron House property became available, a group of members pledged $100 a month to buy the building and paid it off in five years. She sees similar generosity from the congregation in making the current plan possible.

The church has purchased most of the property in the block. West said that when they demolished one building she described as “the crack house,” they set up bleachers for the congregation to watch. The bulldozer driver said it was the first time his work had ever received a standing ovation.

West said that the church has an active group for younger adults in their 20s and 30s. She would like to see a Fort Worth branch of Youth First Texas, and she would like to offer rehearsal space to QCinema’s live performance group.

With additional space, the church can grow to become an even stronger hub of the community, West said.

Ibbotson said it was time for the congregation to move forward with its expansion plans — “not just for the congregation, but for the community,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

West goes rappelling for dollars, raises ‘about $10,000′ for Celebration Community Church

The Rev. Carol West swings near an arch of the 26-story-tall XTO Building in downtown Fort Worth after rappelling down from the roof of the historic edifice. At this point, she had only about four stories left to go to reach the sidewalk.

“My knees are knocking!”

Those were the Rev. Carol West‘s first words to me this morning after she rappelled down the side of the 26-story XTO Building in downtown Fort Worth.

But the adventure was worth it. Celebration Community Church‘s senior pastor told me she wasn’t sure of the exact total she raised for the church with her trip from the roof of the 1920s-era building to the Main Street sidewalk via rope, but that it was “about $10,00o.”

West’s daredevil adventure was part of a day-long fundraising event presented by Downtown Fort Worth Inc., and produced by Over The Edge USA, a nonprofit that does rappelling events like this one all over the country. Participants paid $1,000 to rappel down the building, and then raised funds for their chosen organizations by getting people to sponsor them in the event. At least I think that’s how it worked. I haven’t found exact details anywhere and I didn’t have a chance to ask West.

West was one of several local dignitaries and celebrities who participated in the event. Mayor Mike Moncrief took the leap, too, as did the TCU Horned Frog mascot. West told me this morning that she did it because “the church’s board thought it was a good idea.” By the look on her face, I’m not sure she was thinking it was a good idea at all!

(Just as a side note, while I was waiting for Carol to take her turn rappelling down the building, I sent a text to gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, asking him why he wasn’t down there jumping off that building with Carol. He told me he was in New York where he spent last night at an LGBT fundraiser where he got to introduce President Obama. I guess that’s a pretty good excuse!)

Anyway, you can see more photos after the jump. And next time you see Carol West, be sure to give her a big high five — 26 stories is WAY high, and I am not sure I would have had the guts to step out over that edge.

—  admin

Carol ‘Daredevil’ West set to rappel down XTO Building in downtown Fort Worth Friday morning

The Rev. Carol West, senior pastor for Fort Worth’s Celebration Community Church, is going “Over The Edge” Friday morning, June 24, right about 11:20 a.m. — and she’s raising money for the church in the process.

The Rev. Carol West

West will be joining a host of other Cowtown dignitaries and celebs — including Mayor Mike Moncrief, the TCU mascot and Hot Dog Man (yes, in full hot dog costume — who will all  be taking turns rappelling down the side of the 26-story XTO Building, 714 Main St.

I am not sure of all the details, but from what I can gather — from this story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Celebration Community Church website, and the Downtown Fort Worth Inc. website — Over The Edge is a special events company that offers “signature rappelling events for nonprofit organizations.” Those who participate pay $1,000 for the honor of risking their necks, and I believe folks can donate money to their favorite daredevil to raise money for their cause.

I believe the rappelling starts around 7 a.m. West’s time slot, as I said, is about 11:20 a.m.

You know, I have known Carol West for at least 20 years or so (and have been dying for her to show me the best bass fishing spots on Cedar Creek Lake for at least half that long), and I can’t say I’m surprised she’s doing this. I mean, after all, she has great faith and a great love for her church and her community. She’s bound to be the best one out there.

And I will be there with camera in hand, so watch for photos of the Rev’s spectacular feat tomorrow on Instant Tea.

—  admin

Where to wed • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Many local gay-affirming churches are happy to help couples jump the broom

A NEW IDEA | The new Interfaith Peace Chapel at the Cathedral of Hope, designed by gay architect Phillip Johnson, performs same-sex ceremonies.

Some folks are happy with a private ceremony expressing their love, but others appreciate the sanctity of a officiant declaring their union in the eyes of God. Here are some churches that embrace same-sex couples.

………………………

AGAPE MCC — 4615 E. California Parkway (SE Loop 820), Fort Worth. 817-535-5002. Agapemcc.com. Revs. S. David Wynn, Sr., Teri Lubbers and Robert Myers. Require pre-service counseling.

Ascension Lutheran Church — 4230 Buckingham Road, Garland. 972-276-0023. Ascensiontexas.org. Pastor Kurt Friederich. Blessing service for church members; no weddings for non-members.

Bethany Presbyterian Church — 4523 Cedar Springs Road. 214-528-4084. Called “an open, caring, inclusive, multicultural ‘More Light’ congregation.”

Cathedral of Hope/Interfaith Peace Chapel — 5910 Cedar Springs Road. 214-351-1901, ext 109. Cathedralofhope.com. Senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson. Contact Brian Parman, director of the Interfaith Peace Chapel, for information. The Sanctuary of the Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ features beautiful faceted glass windows and can accommodate up to 750 guests. Reception accommodations are also available.

Celebration Community Church — 908 Pennsylvania Ave., Fort Worth, 817-335-3222. Celebration-community-church.com. Pastor Carol West; ask for wedding/holy union coordinator. Non-denominational Christian congregation.

Center for Spiritual Living — 4801 Spring Valley Road, Suite 115. 972-866-9988; CSLDallas.org. Senior minister Rev. Petra Weldes; Rev. Dr. Marsha Meghdadpour. Marriage or commitment ceremony. United Centers for Spiritual Living.

Community Unitarian Universalist Church — 2875 E. Parker Road, Plano, 972-424-8989. Communityuuchurch.org. Rev. Patrick D. Price. The Unitarian Universalist Church performs weddings and supports full marriage equality.

Congregation Beth El Binah — Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St. 214-521-5342, ext. 1784. Bethelbinah.org. Email Sandy Horwitz, shorwitz@bethelbinah.info or Diane Litke, dlitke@bethelbinah.info. Reform Jewish congregationReform Judaism recognizes marriage between two Jewish men or women; however the rabbi will perform an interfaith service.

First Unitarian Church of Dallas — 4015 Normandy Ave. 214-528-3990. Dallasuu.org. Rev. Dr. Daniel Chesney Kanter; Associate Minister, Rev. Aaron White. The Unitarian Universalist Church performs weddings and supports full marriage equality.

Grace Fellowship in Christ Jesus — 411 S. Westmoreland Road. 214-333-9779. Pastor Tony Hoult. Perform holy unions.

Harvest MCC — 3916 E. McKinney St., Suite B, Denton. 940-484-6159. Harvestmcc.org. Performs weddings or holy unions.

Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas — 1840 Hutton, Suite 100, Carrollton. 972-243-0761. Mccgd.org. Revs. Colleen Darraugh, Steven Pace, Kay Seitz. Provides pre-marital counseling and performs weddings or holy unions. The church facility is available for non-members to rent.  The MCC can also connect couples with musicians, photographers and caterers.

Midway Hills Christian Church — 11001 Midway Road. 214-352-4841. Midwayhills.org. Rev. Terry L. Zimmerman. Performs union ceremonies.

Promise MCC — 2527 W. Colorado Blvd. 214-623-8400. Promisemcc.org. Senior pastor Rev. Jon Haack. Performs weddings or holy unions.

Trinity MCC — 1846 W. Division St. Suite 305, Arlington. 817-265-5454. Trinitymcc.org. Performs weddings or holy unions.

Unity Church of Christianity — 3425 Greenville Ave. 214-826-5683. Dallasunity.org.  Rev. Steve Colladay. Performs holy unions, commitment ceremonies. The minister is openly gay and supported by the congregation.

White Rock Community Church — 9353 Garland Road. 214-320-0043. Whiterockchurch.org. Pastor Douglas Shaffer. Contact wedding coordinator Mary Marshall for information. Performs holy unions, commitment ceremonies or weddings — “whichever the couple is comfortable with.” Activities center for receptions.

Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff — 3839 W. Kiest Blvd. 214-337-2429. Oakcliffuu.org. Rev. Mark Walz. The Unitarian Universalist Church performs weddings and supports full marriage equality.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens