NOT HERE BY CHANCE
Two days after the Stars and Stripes was raised over the State Capitol in Austin, 12 people gathered on a lonely prairie to form a Baptist church. Sister churches existed a hundred miles to the east and two hundred miles to the south, but between them and the Pacific Ocean no other Protestant church existed. Endangered by the threat of Indian attack, enduring the hardship of starting over in a new land, away from friends and family, and facing the possibility of war between the nation they loved and joined and the nation they had rebelled against, they sought comfort from the Word of God. As the preacher spoke that day, a dove flew down and perched itself on him causing considerable laughter. Amusement gave way to awe as they remembered the dove of hope that signaled the pleasure of the Father toward Jesus after his baptism. In a moment their fears were vanquished by the humor of God. The dove became for them a symbol of hope and God's pleasure. They named their congregation Lonesome Dove and from them came many other churches.
In Arlington, Baptists first gathered at Johnson Station, then Tate Springs, and later near the railroad where downtown is today. Many looked on the small town of Arlington as an unnecessary traffic stop between Fort Worth and Dallas. That was to change in the heady days following World War II. The generation that saved freedom sought happiness for themselves and their children after years of hopelessness and struggle by heading to new areas to live. Many left the farm for higher paying work in the cities. Others moved from congested neighborhoods of the old northeast to the open spaces of the southwest. Arlington boomed. Rural gave way to suburban. Tractors and trucks gave way to station wagons. Air-conditioning made summers bearable. Tom Vandergriff was elected "boy" mayor. General Motors built a factory. Fort Worth built an airport without Dallas that went unused. Disneyland opened in California showing that amusement parks could be clean and profitable and someone wondered if one could be built in Texas.
In those heady, innocent days people in north Arlington gathered to form a church. They built a building on North Center Street and they worshiped. They built rooms for teaching and they worshiped. They ate and they worshiped. They raised their children and they worshiped. They started a mission congregation and they worshiped. They befriended missionaries and they worshiped. They told each other their problems and they worshiped. They sang and they worshiped. They gained and lost family and friends and they worshiped.
The calm of their days gave way to the storm of a decade that held so much promise. Shots rang out from a window. How could someone do that? Confrontations brought welcome and unwelcome change. Young men bravely fought a war to maintain the status quo against aggression and lost. And the people of that church on North Center Street, that North Side Baptist Church--they worshiped.
At the end of that trying decade, Arlington boomed again. Fort Worth and Dallas built an airport that has become the regions' economic engine. When people now thought of north Arlington, they meant the area north of the turnpike. North Side Baptist grew and they outgrew. Something had to be done, but what? The problem hung heavy in the prayers of the pastor and people. An immediate answer did not come, so the people waited and they worshiped.
Dr. Henard East, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Arlington, called James Weir, the pastor of North Side, offering the church a parcel of land on Lamar Boulevard between Davis and Cooper. A parcel of land on a street that existed only on planners' maps. The church accepted the land and began holding worship at two locations. What was called the "satellite congregation" met at Butler Elementary until a building for worship was completed in October, 1982. Brother Weir preached at both locations. When God uses a man, sometimes He uses him up. Pleased, but exhausted by the launching of this new work, Brother Weir resigned in February, 1984. Dr. F. B. Huey became interim pastor. It was decided at this time that the two congregations would no longer be one church. Each congregation wished the other Godspeed. Rick Lineberger became the pastor of the mission congregation on Lamar in July, 1984. Six months later with the dawn of a new year, came the dawn of a new church--Lamar Baptist Church.
As we celebrate the accomplishments of past years, let us not forget the future. We must take that which is good and continue to do it. We must proclaim to all who know us what God has done in us. We must seek God in prayer. This generation can do it!
The future is before us now. This generation of God's chosen, having some of the same troubles that faced those who came before, but confronting other troubles never imagined by saints of yesteryear, has hope! "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26