First Christian Church moves from downtown Abilene to Wylie area

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There is no downtown Wylie, but your church location near the Wylie High School campus is quite close.

First Christian (Disciples of Christ) in 2019 moved out of downtown Abilene, leaving its site at North Third Street after reaching a sales agreement with neighboring First Baptist. It went on sale in 2018.

This was great news as First Christian has been around for 135 years; Abilene was founded 140 years ago this year.

Following:First things first: Downtown Baptist congregation buys Disciples property

The first Christian church steeple on September 19, 2018. The building is one of several church properties offered for sale in Abilene.

Her congregation worshiped at the Enterprise Building — and, of course, online when in-person services were canceled by COVID-19. But even in a pandemic year, progress has been made in finding a new home.

A 7 acre piece of land was purchased on Buffalo Gap Road with the intention of building new ones. But, according to church member Wayne Watson, the price was too high. The search continued.

They eventually found a 5.1-acre site on Antilley Road from the west end of the high school campus. According to Taylor County Assessment District records, he belonged to the Hurst-based West Texas District Church of the Nazarene.

A church at 5125 Antilley Road once served a Nazarene congregation but had been vacant for some time.

A cross on the altar shines in front of a round stained glass window and another cross on the wall of the new First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) near Wylie Secondary School.  April 1, 2021

Sunday will be the first Easter celebrated there as the first Christian church. It is the fourth service there since a “soft” opening on March 7, when the Reverend Gregory Morris first led a congregation that numbers 135 members.

Morris, who is from New Mexico, and his wife, Judy, moved to Abilene after 17 years pastoring two churches in Odessa.

“We are excited about this fresh start,” Morris said Thursday, at an Abilene Chamber of Commerce launch event. He noted the transition from the town centre, about 9 miles away, to the growing Wylie area, and said First Christian is “looking forward to the year of service to the community” where it currently finds itself.

Reverend Greg Morris, pastor of First Christian Church, and his wife, Judy, outside the new congregational church at 5125 Antilley Road.  April 1, 2021

The 5,900-square-foot brown-brick church built in 1981 — “9-2-1981” is printed on the sidewalk near the entrance — has been renovated inside. In addition to the sanctuary, there is a wing for small classrooms, offices, and meeting/kitchen space.

“We just received the chairs last night,” Greg Morris said Thursday.

The interior was in good condition but needed updating.

In a First Christian Church children's room, young people are encouraged to say that cleanliness is next to godliness.  April 2, 2021

Outside, the unsightly cedar bushes have been removed.

The presbytery to the west of the site will be used for the church’s Mother’s Day program.

Johnnie Lou Avery Boyd, who moved to Abilene in 2004 and is the church’s historian, said the project took seven months.

Morris said he wanted to emphasize to nearby residents, and to Abilene as a whole, that “you are welcome here. We will love you and serve you if you let us.”

A community egg hunt was scheduled for Saturday morning.

Morris said that although the church site is new, it is not a new church. The congregation is firmly established. He doesn’t have to build a core group of leaders – those who welcomed him when he arrived.

“There was a bit of adversity” moving from downtown, he said, but it “strengthened this church even more.”

A door hanger at the entrance to the first Christian church.

“There’s a lot of tradition,” he said of the church in Abilene. The mission now is to apply that “to whatever the future holds.”

Reviewing the sanctuary, which includes a lounge-like area out back, Morris said some members have already commented on the new chairs.

How comfortable they were, he said.

Could put you to sleep, they said.

Morris smiled, knowing it was his job to make sure that didn’t happen.

Reverend Greg Morris' office inside the new First Christian Church near Wylie High School.  April 1, 2021

Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

Sunday schedule

First Christian Church, 5125 Antilley Road, west of Buffalo Gap Road, will resume its Sunday school schedule at 10 a.m., with worship to follow at 11 a.m. For more information, visit www.fccabilenetx.com.

An illuminated depiction of the Last Supper below the altar facing the First Christian Church congregation.  April 2, 2021
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