Catalysts for more.
Sunday, March 5, 1933, President Roosevelt called a special session of congress to combat the Great Depression. That same Sunday, University Christian Church laid the cornerstone at 2720 S. University Drive.
Thanks to their commitment, University Christian Church has stood as a place where open minds and loving hearts are helping to heal the world. Our congregation worked for justice during the Civil Rights Movement, brought hope during the AIDS epidemic, and continually served the people of Fort Worth and beyond.
As inheritors of that legacy, we’re moving forward.
Click below to read about a few of the brave stories throughout the history at UCC:
ALL ARE WELCOME
With the movement toward desegregation in the 60’s both at Brite Bible College (renamed Brite Divinity School in 1963) and TCU, young Black men and women began to visit on Sunday mornings. Mary Ann Henry from Jarvis College was one of those worship guests. God had blessed Mary Ann with a beautiful voice and she wanted to join the church and sing in the choir.
In his book Legacy of Faith: A Collection of Sermons, Granville Walker describes what happened next:
“In a conversation with our Elders, I was asked if the Elders needed to go on record as willing to receive Black members.
“I answered that I wanted them only to reaffirm the fact that the only basis of membership in University Church remains unchanged—that it has always been and will continue to be simple belief in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
“We had never had a policy of exclusion, but, because of Jim Crow practices prevalent almost everywhere, it was simply assumed that we did. I suspect that what was true of our church was true of nearly every church in our denomination, only in our case there had never been any occasion to consider all the implications of that assumption. The Elders gave unanimous approval to this suggestion.
“The following Sunday morning, Mary Ann presented herself for membership, and one week later she walked down the aisle in a choir robe, singing with the rest of the saints. From then on it was a matter of public knowledge that our church would receive whoever came believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
ROOM IN THE INN
“I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you welcome me…” Matthew 25:35
In the winter of 2006, Broadway Baptist Church invited University Christian Church to be part of a community effort to serve Fort Worth’s population experiencing homelessness through the Nashville based, national ministry, Room in the Inn (RITI)- where churches welcome men experiencing homeless into their buildings to share in fellowship and a delicious dinner, experience a peaceful night’s sleep and enjoy a hearty breakfast the next morning before they start their day.
In preparation for commencing Room in the Inn in Fort Worth, participants from UCC, TCU, Broadway Baptist, St. Stephen Presbyterian, First United Methodist, Tarrant Area Community of Churches and other area churches, met bi-weekly as a planning/action team. At the same time a team formed at UCC to gage interest and feasibility, and address the details of, and concerns around, implementing Room in the Inn at the church.
As you might imagine, there were concerns with hosting men experiencing homelessness at the church overnight, but through brave conversations, detailed planning and training, and leaning on the scriptural call of Jesus to welcome the stranger, the church Assembly voted YES to become a Room in the Inn site in October of 2008 and UCC hosted its first RITI guests that December! Mattresses, linens, blankets, towels, dishes, and kitchen supplies were purchased, and Fellowship Hall become a warm respite from the cold.
In a 2011 article in TCU’s The 109, Leslie Dell, the ministry’s lay leader at the time, said the purpose of Room in the Inn was “to make guests feel human again, because when you’re in that situation—you feel invisible.” The small gathering of 10 guests and members created a safe space to share stories, laughter, and prayers for each other. As hosts and guests sat down to break bread together, the very real need for community was met- which is the essence of the Christian life- to love others as we have been loved.
Room in the Inn is a now a collaborative ministry of 15+ congregations in Fort Worth, which join together in a ministry of hospitality to homeless persons in our community. We open our church buildings to provide welcoming, hospitable spaces for persons without a home during the hottest and coldest months of the year; and respond to the very human need for inclusion in community.
THE SUPREME COURT AND UCC WEDDING POLICIES
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark civil rights case that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. During the sermon the following Sunday, Senior Minister Larry Thomas expressed his support for the ruling. The UCC Board of Stewards invited members to a called meeting on July 14. In addition to the board, approximately 70 UCC members were present. Some signed up to speak.
A handout prepared in advance by the Board emphasized core beliefs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) including: 1) The Oneness of the Church: “All Christians are called to be one in Christ and to seek opportunities for common witness and service.” 2) Freedom of Belief: “As Disciples, we are called together around two essentials of faith: a belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and that Christians are free to follow their conscience guided by Bible study, the Holy Spirit and prayer. We extend that same freedom to others.” Included in the handout was an excerpt from UCC’s Mission Statement: “We are called to create a loving and caring community for all people, and work together for justice and peace in our world. Recognizing that our spiritual journeys are all different, we strive to be respectful and inclusive concerning each individual’s relationship with God.”
The discussion that evening included overwhelming support for the existing UCC wedding policy that welcomes any couple with a legally issued marriage license to hold t
heir wedding at UCC. Support was also expressed for the freedom granted UCC ministers to officiate for all couples who love each other.
Monty Phillips served as board chair in 2015 and led the meeting. “Rarely has the UCC board met and invited the congregation over a single issue,” he said. “The Obergefell vs. Hodges decision by the Supreme Court was of such importance that our church needed to explore its response, in full view, out in the open. I remember being very nervous in front of so many members, representing the board in a time of significant social change. As I listened to our members, it was evident that Christ’s love and inclusivity were being felt. Some have said we made a brave decision that day. I prefer to think that we were simply following Jesus that day.”
THE MOHAMMADI FAMILY
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August of 2021 an estimated 76,000 Afghans were welcomed into the United States within a matter of months, over 10,000 of those seeking refuge were resettled in Texas. With the large influx of refugee arrivals in Fort Worth, and lack of housing available, Refugee Services of Texas sought temporary accommodations (1 week) for a couple of larger refugee families. Meg Pitts, a UCC member and Refugee Services volunteer, reached out to church leaders about the possibility of UCC providing temporary housing. Through her work as a flight attendant, Meg had been a part of 7 humanitarian relief flights transporting Afghan refugees to refugee camps across the country. She saw firsthand the anguish these families were experiencing and thought the church might have space to provide a safe, welcoming, refuge for these families.
On October 19, 2021 a family of 11, timidly exited 4 different vehicles in the front parking lot of UCC. Little did they, or we, know that this temporary housing situation would turn into 106 days of living at the church. The third floor was transformed into temporary living quarters and members provided food, clothing, and stayed overnight at the church to make sure the family felt welcomed and safe.
Haddy Manuel and her family were some of those volunteers, “We followed the news closely back in August when the Kabul evacuations were unfolding and the scene was devastating. The second I saw the email come through that our church was working hard to be a part of the rebuilding of these families’ lives, I jumped at the opportunity to help. I loved that the first “ask” was to give the gift of time – a valuable resource these days – and something I knew we could do.”
Diana Hawley, who also supported the family during those first few months said, “The Afghanistan families were in need-it’s as simple as that. We are asked to help our neighbors as well as strangers and knowing of their plight just made it all the more compelling for us to help out in whatever ways we could.”
Together, we were able to provide a safe space for an extremely brave family during a frightening season of change and transition.
It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the Mohammadi family first came into our lives. The kids are thriving in school; in fact, one of the boys just received an award for answering the most questions correctly in his grade over the first 6-weeks. The older boys work multiple jobs to provide for their family, and dad has been able to receive the medical care he needs following a traumatic injury to his leg. Each day, they teach us what true bravery looks like, and our lives have been deeply enriched by their friendship.
THE MOVEMENT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE
The Fort Worth Area Council of Churches was founded partly through the efforts of Granville Walker who served the Council as Vice President 1954-55. Other founders who were also members of UCC were Harry C. Munro, President of the Texas Council of Churches, and M.E. Sadler, President of TCU. The Council was active in the movement for racial justice and was the first group to hold an integrated event, a Festival of Faith, in 1954 in Will Rogers Auditorium.
THE WHOLENESS OF THE CHURCH
In 1960 representatives of churches across the U.S. gathered for “A Commission on Brotherhood Restructure of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) The historic commission was chaired by Granville T. Walker. Delegates were charged with recommending an organizational structure for Disciples which would reflect the wholeness of the church, giving full recognition to national, regional, and local manifestations of the church. The new structure was adopted in 1968. After more than a century, Disciples had a form of church governance which provided for representative democracy—a major accomplishment.
PICKET LINE PROTESTS AND THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
The Fort Worth Star Telegram described it as “the city’s most emotional school controversy since court-ordered busing began in 1973.” In 1997 Rev. Michael Bell, pastor of Greater St. Stephen First Church, began his protest with a simple picket line calling for better educational opportunities for black students. Two years later the protest had grown to a “bullhorn-blaring, traffic-blocking brouhaha” according to the newspaper. Bell complained that there had been no progress for minority students since the federal court lifted its oversight of FWISD in 1994. Bell charged that academically superior magnet schools had been created to draw white students into mostly black schools, operating like a school within a school.
During the winter of 1998-1999 UCC Senior Minister Scott Colglazier accepted an invitation to meet at the office of Rev. Bell. With Dr. Colglazier that day was Rev. Ken McIntosh, member of UCC and executive director of Tarrant Area Community of Churches.
Colglazier later told the reporter that he went to Bell’s office naively, thinking the three pastors could talk it out and bring the protest to an end. Bell later admitted he was willing to meet with Colglazier and McIntosh but had little expectation that the meeting would be of any help. Bell recounted his history of interaction with school officials to Colglazier and McIntosh who quickly concluded that the only way to halt the protests was to address the underlying issues. They asked Bell to meet with a larger group of clergy. Conversations continued over many weeks.
Bell told the Star-Telegram later that Colglazier played an important role in mediating during the crisis. “During those crucial times, when the heat was on, Scott Colglazier proved himself to be an outside-the-box type of thinker and he helped in the dialogue to cool things down.”
Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger of Congregation Beth-El, another participant in the talks, also praised Colglazier. “He’s not only an eloquent speaker, but he speaks up on important issues.”
HONORING MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
In the Fort Worth Star Telegram on January 19, 2002, an editorial by Senior Minister Scott Colglazier challenged all Americans to observe MLK Day. Here’s an excerpt:
“I admire King not because he was a flawless dreamer, but because of the rightness of the dream. To do otherwise, I’m afraid, offers a shortsighted view of this great American, and frankly, not honoring him does nothing but perpetuate the very racism he was trying to address. His personal foibles, as is the case with all public figures, will continue to be of interest to historians, but in no way do his shortcomings diminish his significance.
“Segregation came to an end after the civil rights movement, but ask any African American today, or for that matter any Hispanic or Asian American, and they will tell you that racism is alive and well in America. It is in our corporations, our schools, our neighborhoods, and yes, even in our churches that continue to be purveyors of a dominant culture of whiteness. The work is not finished and the movement is not over. And the dream, so eloquently articulated by King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, is still in need of fulfillment. More than another three-day weekend, the King holiday is an essential reminder of our past and a hopeful sign for our future.”
Our building is more
than a memorial to the past.
A new challenge and opportunity lie before us.
We continue to serve the people of Fort Worth, providing mentors in public schools, investing in the next generation, and growing weekend services.
But our church building, as it exists, places barriers between people. A confusing floor plan. Severe walls. Closed doors and constricted corridors. Imagine:
A young family, overwhelmed as they follow the path from the parking lot to children’s ministry to Walker Hall.
A single mother with two or more children, trying to navigate our labyrinthine hallways.
A TCU freshman who may already feel homesick and lost having to choose between multiple imposing doors.
Or all of the rest of us. Those who want to practice hospitality. Who want to show up for one another. Who desire a place where we can receive, share, and carry compassion.
It’s time to reimagine our building.
Let’s make sure it’s the brave space our predecessors intended it to be.
More Light and Openness
- A welcoming, expanded entrance on Rogers Street
- Increased windows for light and visibility
- Bright and airy two-story first-floor commons area
- Seating areas to encourage conversation
- New first-floor gathering space across from Walker Hall
More For Young People
- Improved navigation for families
- Second-floor spaces for children and youth visible from the first-floor commons area
- Centralized entrance to improve the check-in experience
- Large group gathering area with a stage and classrooms
- New technology to make learning more accessible and fun
- Updated Walker Hall for worship and large gatherings
- New second-floor commons area with comfortable seating for informal gatherings, receptions, and small group functions
- Staff offices relocated to give us additional second-floor meeting rooms
- A wheelchair lift will make the sanctuary chancel accessible for all
- New security system
- Upgraded fire detection and alarms
- Added protections for our congregation, Weekday School, and other groups
Harold and Pat Muckleroy
Lifelong University Christian Church members Harold and Pat Muckleroy lead our Stewardship Team for the Cornerstone Campaign.
They met at TCU. Now their children and grandchildren are part of our congregation.
Additionally, Harold’s professional experience as the founder of one of Fort Worth’s premier construction companies, Muckleroy & Falls, will serve this project well.
They’re a team of financial strategists and ministry experts. They’re helping us understand where we are today, the opportunities present, and how we can accomplish our goals with wisdom and transparency.
OWT has been chosen by companies that care about hospitality (like Westin and Marriott). They’ve built several churches. And forward-thinking municipalities around Texas and beyond have chosen them to create open, light-filled spaces.
Our Staff Team
We work closely with our capital campaign team, elder board, and contractors. Our job: keep our work focused on our vision of transforming the world by living out Christ’s courageous love.
You’re on the team, too! Here’s how you can help.
First, pray for the success of our campaign. And prayerfully consider, “Based on the blessings in my life, how can I help?”
We’ll provide ways to help move this initiative forward, from making phone calls to hosting gatherings. Interested? Email Dee Sandjian.
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