Broadway Baptist Church in Sweetwater, located at 710 E. Third, will be celebrating its 80th anniversary this weekend with back-to-back special events.
On Dec. 10, 1931, eleven people met in an abandoned broom factory to begin an independent, mission-minded Baptist church. Nicknamed the “Old Mule Barn” for its structure and hay-covered floors, the members met there until a building was constructed on the same corner.
Thirteen years later, the building was dedicated and an annex for Sunday school classes was built shortly thereafter. More property was later purchased to build more Sunday school rooms and a parsonage.
In 1955, an educational building was built south of the original auditorium. The church was steadily growing, thus resulting in the purchase of more property. At the cost of $60,000, the church built a new auditorium and transformed the old auditorium to be used for Sunday school classrooms.
The final construction in the church property came in 1979, when a gymnasium/family center was added to the church campus.
In all, the entire church property covers three-fourths of a city block. While it surprisingly has never changed locations, its name has been altered on four different occasions. Upon its inception in 1931, the church was called Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Three years later, the name was changed to East Side Baptist Church. In 1939, the church was renamed as Fundamental Baptist Church and remained as its title for forty-one years. In February of 1980, the church was known as the Broadway Baptist Church and is still recognized with the name today.
In the church’s eighty year history, thirteen pastors have been called to the church. The first five cover a nine-year period, whereas the latter group spans seventy-one years. W.L. Massagee was the first pastor from 1931 to 1932; the next pastor was L.G. Shepherd, who served from 1932 to 1936.
The next three pastors had very short terms at the pastorate: Frank Fort (1936-1939), Joe Hull (1939-1940) and R.L. Denton (1940). In the later part of 1940, A.L. Patterson moved to Sweetwater to take on the pastoral role, leading the church for 40 years until his death in 1960. Upon his death, Raymond Dunn was called and stayed from 1960 until 1976.
Max Smiley was the next pastor in 1976 and remained there for twelve years. Following Smiley in 1988, Mike Haley took the leadership role of the church until 1994. Lyndel Hix then became the pastor and led the church for the next ten years, and from 2004 to 2007, David Chittenden served as pastor.
For the past three years, Broadway Baptist has been under the pastoral leadership of Chris Stephens.
“I first became acquainted with Broadway Baptist in the 1970s as a teenager from San Angelo," stated Mr. Stephens. "Little did I realize that one day God would allow me to pastor such an awesome church and amazing group of people."
"It truly is a dream come true," he continued. "As pastor, it is my desire to 'Remember our Heritage and Leave a Legacy' for future generations.”
Within the time span of four decades, the church has endured much. The deacons, trustees, workers and volunteers who put their time, effort and talents into the church have remained dedicated and loyal. The church has seen the births of future Christian workers and has also witnessed the deaths of some of its most faithful and dear saints.
Thousands have been saved and baptized within the church walls in eighty years, in which many of those same individuals have been called into full-time ministry. Some serve as pastors, missionaries, teachers and Christian workers, either in the States or around the world. Throughout the changing times and methods, Broadway Baptist Church has stayed true to the preaching of the Bible.
To celebrate the 80th anniversary, Broadway Baptist Church will have a banquet Saturday night, Dec. 10, in their Family Life Center which will include testimonies, video clips and cards and letters from former staff, as well as a concert by Evangelist Ricky Moore.
The celebrations will continue with their Sunday morning service beginning at 10:30 a.m. with special music and messages by former pastors Mike Haley and Lyndel Hix. The church invites everyone who has been touched by Broadway Baptist to join them as they commemorate 80 years.