A true community center

Posted on 04 Nov 2016 at 8:05am

Construction is underway on Celebration’s new fellowship hall

celebration-cuurch

The Rev. Carol West checks out progress on Celebration Community church’s new community center

 

Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

The Rev. Carol West, senior pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, talked about the times she has been riding in the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade and has seen people waving, heard them yell out, “That’s my church!”

“I hear them say that, and when I see them, I realize, they’ve never even been in our church,” West recalled. “And you know what — that’s OK.”

The point, she explained, is that Celebration truly is a community church, a place where LGBT people — and others — can come and find what they need.

“We want people to know that if they need something, we’re here for them. And it doesn’t require to ever even have stepped foot in our door,” West said.

And the church’s new fellowship hall, now under construction, will give Celebration even more room to accommodate the needs of the community it serves.

“We really need it,” West said this week of the 5,500-square-foot addition being built behind the existing church sanctuary and combination office/fellowship hall. “Right now, if we have a church dinner, we don’t have enough room for everyone to sit down and eat. When this is done, we will have that room and more.”

The new construction will include a fellowship hall — designed to be sectioned off into smaller spaces when necessary — and some office spaces, connected to the existing structure by a hallway, West said. There will also be a columbarium, and “we will also have plenty of green space back here.”

Celebration Community Church was formed in 1993, and in 1998, the 35-member congregation called West as its pastor. The church, with a primarily LGBT congregation soon began to grow and thrive, and before long members voted to purchase the building they had been renting, a Gothic Revival stone building at 908 Pennsylvania, designed by M.M Moseley and constructed in 1951 by Elbert Gunn.

(The building was originally built for St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church, which started in 1882.)

Several church members eventually purchased a fourplex next door to Celebration then donated the building to the church. It has since been remodeled, thanks to a grant from Black Tie Dinner, and now houses the Barron House Counseling Center.

When the congregation decided it was time to build the new fellowship hall — which church members have voted to name the Carol A. West Community Center — the pastor said they agreed not to break ground on the new building until they had raised at least a half-million dollars. “We’ve raised that half-million,” and are on their way to the estimated $1.2 million total cost, she said.

West said the church broke ground on the new building about a year ago, but construction didn’t start until just a few weeks ago. “We had to jump through all the hoops with the city, and with Fort Worth South, to make sure all our permits were in order, and everything was tested and approved before we started,” she said. “They have strict regulations, and we wanted to make sure we were meeting all of them.”

Nan Faith Arnold of Nan Faith Arnold Co. is in charge of project management for the construction, and West said the church has complete trust in her and her abilities. The new building was designed by Jepsen/Guerin Architects, and H. Purdon Inc. is handling the construction.

West said the congregation has raised most of the fund so far, but a wide range of community organizations and individuals have pitched in to help.

“We already see ourselves as a hub for the community, and we want this new building to truly a place for the whole community to use, a true community center,” West said. “And it is has been so very affirming and encouraging to see the way the whole community has pitched in to help us. TGRA, the Imperial Court — so many organizations and individuals have done so much already.”

Ron Hall, she added, has done a great job, a tremendous job” as chair of the church’s capital campaign, the committee in charge of the fundraising efforts.

West noted that she and her partner will celebrate their anniversary on April 1, and her partner “is bound and determined that it will be complete by then. But I told her not to send out any party invitations just yet,” the pastor said of the expected completion date for the new facility.

“Sometime in April is our target date, for sure. But it all depends on the weather and other factors like that we have no control over,” she added. “But it should be done sometime between spring and summer. It WILL be done between spring and summer.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2016.

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