CENTRAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH
(DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)
On May 6, 1883, The Express Church Notices column contained this information, “Elder David Pennington of the Christian Church, will preach at 4 p.m. at the Trinity church on avenue C. All are invited.” Rev. David Pennington is considered the founding father of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) San Antonio, Texas.
Throughout the terms of many ministers, a great wind and rainstorm August 20, 1886, a severe flu epidemic of 1889, congregational wane and growth, several floods, several wars, division over the use of musical instruments and church organization, Central persisted and held fast to a vision of unity in Christ.
From the original white frame church building constructed on Camden Street in 1984, a new home for Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) San Antonio, TX was dedicated in 1903. This building located on Main Avenue was an imposing edifice of brick and stone in a Romanesque style with large art glass windows donated by various members and societies of the church. Four massive Corinthian columns supported a portico at the front entrance. This building served the congregation until 1948. The existing building, constructed in modified Georgian colonial style, was dedicated in 1950. The art glass windows from the 1903 building were installed. This building is distinguished as a San Antonio historical building and is located at the corner of Camden Street and Main Ave.
Most of the early church records were destroyed in one of the many floods that inundated the business district of San Antonio. Early history of the church comes from newspaper files, city records, and memories of the elderly parishioners. The most complete history was written by Colleen Mann (d.), a former secretary of the church. Her book, So We Can Proceed (1976), is kept in the church library and provides a fascinating account of the church history. Members and guests may check out a copy in order to get a larger perspective on this historical church.
Several innovative and dedicated ministers have presided over programs that could serve as models for any church.
REV. DAVID PENNINGTON
In May 1893, Rev. David Pennington, a traveling evangelist of the Christian Church, arrived in San Antonio and began preaching at various churches and halls. The Christian Church met in the business hall at the corner of Houston and St. Mary’s Streets for their first six months of existence with a group of 20 members. In January 1884, they began to meet in members’ homes with a growing membership of 45. In March 1884, planning for a building began and a lot was purchased in April. Construction of the first Christian Church building in San Antonio began on Camden Street. The white frame building was named the Camden Street Christian Church and a dedication service was held in July 1884. Over the next 10 years twenty different ministers, other than the seven employed ones, filled the pulpit of the Church, and the membership grew to 180.
REV. HOMER WILSON
During the ministry of Rev. Homer Wilson (1901-1905) church membership grew, the original church building, which had been moved to Main Avenue, was moved back to the Camden location, and construction of a new church building began on the lot at Main Avenue. The new church was an imposing edifice of brick and stone in a Romanesque style. Beautiful art glass windows were donated by various members. The women’s groups baked, sewed, and created arts and crafts to fund church needs. They published a cookbook in 1904, followed by a series of cookbooks still used today in preparing church dinners.
REV. HUGH MCLELLAN
Long-term minister, Hugh McLellan, served Central from 1910-1925. He was well educated, well traveled, and a compelling speaker. He saw the church through the tensions of the Mexican War, World War I, and church debt. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Texas Christian University for his 14 years of service. Rev. McLellan was affectionately called the “Pastor of San Antonio” through his service to the community as well as the church. In May 1924, his Radio Sermon became the first religious program broadcast over radio station WOAI. On February 15, 1925, ground was broken for the New Mexican Christian Church, the result of a funding campaign by Rev. McLellan.
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the church had five pastors and 3 interim ministers in 15 years. It was an era of depression for the church as well as for the world.
REV. D. RAY LINLEY
Rev. D. Ray Linley who served Central from 1937-1940 had a special appeal to youth and young families. During this major period of growth and development, he baptized 171 and received 106 by transfer in three years. Sunday school attendance averaged 300 to 350. Average attendance at his Men’s Bible Class was 400. Total giving grew from $8,000 to $18,000. He retired to enter Yale Divinity School, became a professor, later returning to TCU where he became Vice-President, then President.
DR. FLOYD ALLEN BASH
Dr. Floyd Allen Bash became pastor in January 1941. His assignments included increasing the size of the congregation and building a new sanctuary. He felt that evangelism was a major concern. He was successful in baptizing 420 people and receiving 1349 transfers of membership within 10 years. Few can rival that record.
In 1941, there were 5 military installations in San Antonio filled with soldiers from all over the world. Central recognized this opportunity for ministry and appointed a ministry committee to offer Christian care. World War II began and plans for the new building were put on hold. During the war years, the church continued to dream, plan and prepare to build. On May 2, 1948, the last worship service in the old brick building was held and the church met at Temple Beth-El until the new building was completed. The first service in the new building was held on December 18, 1949. Membership was now 1618. The beautiful art glass windows had been repaired and were installed in the new church. Dr. Bash resigned in September 1950, leaving an incomparable legacy.
DR. EARL WALDROP
On December 17, 1950, Dr. Earl Waldrop arrived to assume ministerial responsibilities. Dr. Waldrop began innovative programs and grew the church with Sunday school attendance passing 600. In 1953 he oversaw the donation and installation of a carillon for the bell tower. Donated by the L. A. Nordan family, it was the largest set of bells in Texas. In 1955 the Service Guild of Central was organized for church and community service.
Central has been instrumental in the startup of several churches. In 1944 Central gave funds for the establishment of Highland Christian Church. In 1953 monies were contributed to establish Alamo Heights Christian Church, and also Western Hills Christian Church. University Christian Church of Austin received monies to help with the construction of their Sanctuary and their ministry to University of Texas students. Dr. Waldrop was a civil rights advocate and in 1957 the Board voted to help establish Willow Park Christian Church. Also in 1957 a parking area was purchased at the corner of Main and Quincy. In 1958 the church ladies started a fund to purchase and install the elevator.
As a preacher Dr. Waldrop was rated one of the best of his time. He resigned in January of 1963, and became Vice Chancellor of External Affairs at TCU. His term at Central was an unprecedented 12 years and one month.
REV. MYRON CHRISMAN
Rev. Myron Chrisman came to Central in February 1961 as Minister of Administration, and in 1963, was called to be the Senior Minister. He established a Leadership Training School for teachers and monthly fellowship dinners. Rev. Chrisman’s major interest was Christian Social Concern, a movement toward unity of churches. A Disaster Food Bank was set up in the basement. In 1968, youth groups attending Hemisfair from other cities were invited to camp out in the church while visiting San Antonio. In 1969 a bilingual kindergarten was planned for Central. Rev. Chrisman became Chairman of the Board of Inman.
Christian Center, leading a move to construct a building for Inman. After leading the church in attacking social problems of the city and helping the needy, he resigned on February 11, 1970, having given 9 years of seeing the church through controversial issues.
DR. THOMAS YOUNGBLOOD
Dr. Thomas Youngblood served Central Christian Church from 1971-1985. By the time he finished his work in San Antonio, he had served on the boards of twelve of the major organizations of the Christian Church. Dr. Youngblood and Rev. Royce Makin, interim pastor during the previous year, now assistant minister, were very creative. A “telephone ministry” was started, interactive sermons were introduced, a short children’s sermon was introduced, and the Day School was expanded. In 1978
Dr. Youngblood proposed the Christian Assistance Ministry also known as CAM, an interdenominational aid program that still serves the needy and poor.
In 1972, the Kerns Sunday school Class gave 500 new hymnals. In 1974, Harold Herndon was recognized for his 30 years of music ministry to the church, his generous donations, his overseeing of the construction of the new church, and his unparalleled influence on the life of the congregation. In 1978, Dr. Youngblood was elected a member of the Board at TCU. Also in 1978, the church purchased the exquisite (and still displayed) Nativity Scene created by Fern Deutsch and Bess McGee. Mrs. Nordan donated stained glass windows for the chapel. Dr. Youngblood’s term spanned the Vietnam War and in 1979 the church welcomed the Chanthadara family from Laos. Khampheng, the father, worked in a custodial capacity at the Church for 33 years.
In 1979 Dr. Youngblood helped create the Bluebonnet Area, a reorganization of Christian Churches of Texas, the Southwest, and New Mexico. Deacons and Deaconesses became “One Diaconate,” CWF bazaars became an annual affair and donated to missions and church projects. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met in San Antonio August 15-20, 1975. Ten thousand people met at Municipal Auditorium. Twenty-two members of Central went to the General Assembly in Anaheim, California in 1981. The Assembly met in San Antonio again in 1983 for Central’s 100th anniversary. The Centennial Anniversary began April 30 and continued throughout August. It was a truly joyful celebration with remarkable programs, some created by Rev. Royce Makin, a talented writer and dramatist. Dr. Youngblood retired June 1985, leaving behind innovations in the church programs and ministries that are examples for any church program. He died in 1988.
REV. ROYCE MAKIN
Rev. Royce Makin had endeared himself to the congregation, having served with Rev. Chrisman, Dr. Youngblood, and as Interim Minister in 1969 and 1985. He served as senior minister for the next five years. With his talents, he created the Madrigal Dinners with costumes and music. After Rev. Makin and 28 parishioners took a trip to Jerusalem, he wrote the drama, “Journey to Jerusalem,” which was, on invitation, taken to Long Beach, California, to be performed at the World Convention of Christian Churches. The Chancel Choir, Handbell Choir, and the Drama Group were all invited.
The World Convention highlighted the music ministry of the church, which is still led by George Gregory, organist and carillonneur who has served Central for 58 years (1947 - present) in dedicated music ministry. His talents and longevity of service are a phenomenon. George is known all over the world for his accomplishments and carillonneur performances.
Rev. Makin resigned January 10, 1993, after serving in many capacities and enriching Central with his dramatic talents, acting out Old and New Testament characters brought to life through his research in costume and speech. He died in July 4, 2003, at the age of 71.
DR. DOUGLAS DEUEL
After hiring several interim ministers since 1993, Central called Dr. Doug Deuel in 1995. Dr. Deuel’s goal was to visit all church members and assess the congregation’s hopes for the future. His wish was to train new leaders to shape the church. A Long-Range Planning Committee was set up to recommend spending funds to expand the church. After much consideration, Rev. Deuel started new Sunday school classes, a Parenting Workshop, and set up the church archives. He took members on Mission work trips to Jamaica, Ecuador, Denver, Colorado, New York City and India. Eventually his planning led to the purchase of land on Evans Road and the establishment of Stone Oak Christian Church, our sister church, under the theme “One Church, Two Locations.” This gave Central a footprint in the fastest growing area of San Antonio. The first meeting in the new building was November 29, 2001. In 2007 Dr. Deuel resigned from Central to become full-time minister at Stone Oak. Followed by restructure between Central and Stone Oak, the satellite congregation name was changed to North Central Christian Church and it is now an independent entity. Dr. Deuel resigned form North Central to become the Senior Minister at First Christian Church in Plano, Texas in 2010.
REV. WILLIE PEACOCK
Rev. Willie Peacock came to Central in 1998 as Minister of Pastoral Care. He is a retired military chaplain and led the Stephen Ministry program and the Wedding Ministry. He served until the fall of 2004. He occasionally gives sermons and serves at weddings and funerals, ever dapper in his full military uniform. He is beloved by the congregation.
REV. NELSON TORRES
Rev. Nelson Torres was hired in 2004 to begin a Hispanic ministry for the residents of the area. During his years of service to Central he has helped develop the Children’s Ministry and given many hours of pastoral care to members. At the present time, he serves Central in the capacity of Associate Minister.
Throughout its long history, Central Christian Church has gone through restructuring, realigning, innovation, building, conflict and resolution, and is still strongly involved in social issues. Central continues to be an influential place of worship and ministry in the San Antonio community.