DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Midway Hills Christian Church has kicked off a capital campaign to raise $400,000 to renovate and update the facility. Spokesman Tom Peck called it an “express campaign” to raise the money in August.
Campaign co-chair Roger Wedell said the total goal was $900,000 and the improvements would help the church better serve the community.
The church has a long history of welcoming the LGBT community. In the 1970s, Midway Hills was one of only four Dallas congregations to co-host a program on churches and homosexuality.
Midway Hills was one of the original rehearsal spaces for the Turtle Creek Chorale, and fFor more than 15 years, the church hosted P-FLAG.
Early in the AIDS crisis, Midway Hills met the challenge when other churches shunned people with AIDS or ignored the problem. It was one of the first churches to form an AIDS Interfaith Network care team.
Wedell said the renovations to the building would create more flexible spaces.
“We hope to accommodate a wider variety of groups in the community,” he said. “And a wider variety of worship and contemporary expressions.”
Rather than fixed pews, the main sanctuary would have modular seating and the chancel would be moveable
“We have a long tradition of incorporating music,” said Wedell. The new configuration would make it easier to incorporate those elements, he said.
“The current entrance to the sanctuary will converted into a new chapel,” he said.
Also in the plans is reconfiguring the entrance.
“Right now, it’s difficult to know what door you should use,” Wedell said.
He said the new main entrance would be handicap accessible. The current front entrance does not meet federal standards.
That entrance will open to a large gathering space for displays, small group use and fellowship.
Wedell said the building is already booked four nights a week. He said the church hosts English as a second language classes, 12-step programs and a square dance group, among others. He said he couldn’t think of a group affiliated with the church that didn’t include LGBT members.
The church had its start in the 1950s and has always been located at its current Midway Road location just north of Royal Lane. At the time, there was lots of open space in the area and large tracts of land were just being developed for housing.
The church is a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination. Wedell explained that congregations in the denomination have a national affiliation but strong local control. He called it the oldest indigenous U.S. Protestant denomination, formed in the 1800s from a merger of several smaller movements.
“As a small denomination, we’ve been involved far beyond our numbers in ecumenical work,” he said.
The congregation has about 200 active members.
“It all goes back to the vision our original members had for the church,” Peck said, “to make an impact far beyond the walls of the church.”
When Dallas first desegregated its school, members of Midway Hills voted to bus their own children. During the Vietnam War, the church became a Shalom or “peace” Congregation, and it was involved with resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Midway helped settle Afghan refugees.
“We helped them with housing and getting stabilized in the community,” Peck said.
In addition to its own congregation, a Peace Mennonite church hold services in the building early on Sunday morning and a new Latino congregation is also using the facility.
To raise the initial $400,000 and eventual $900,000 for additional renovations including resurfacing the parking lot, redesign of the peace garden, remodeling the restrooms and retrofitting the fire protection system, church leaders hope to reach out to the broader community.
“We’re contacting people and organizations we consider to be friends,” Wedell said. And over the years, the church has developed lots of friends.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.