A Legacy of Perseverance, Prayer & Preaching
Religion has always been a central part of the lives of African-Americans. When our foremothers and fathers were brought to this country as enslaved Africans, our religious sensibilities were strong. We have always had a sense of the Sacred, of religious mystery, and spiritual power. Our people have a history of offering celebration to God through various festivals, through singing, worship, and preaching.Warren Avenue Christian Church is the recipient of this rich legacy!
Our congregation dates back to the late 1870's when a group of white missionaries meeting on Sunday afternoon conducted worship services with the African-American christians. These two diverse groups worshipped together until the Central Christian Church was organized and built on St. Paul and Patterson streets.
The first African-American Disciples congregation in Dallas was on Akard and Jackson streets. The church later moved to Young and Marilla streets known as Young Street Christian Church. In 1887 the first minister was called, Rev. Henry S. Howell. Howell started the first movement for a Christian School. Other ministers serving Young Street Christian Church were Rev. Medlock, M.T. Brown, S.W.Scott, W.M. Alpin, A.R. McDuff, William Anderson, J.E. Anderson, H.S. Gerron and G.W. Taylor.
The Lord blessed the congregation to progress and grow. The membership of Young Street was committed and devoted to carrying out the ministry of the Lord. It wasn't long before they had outgrown their facility and were in need of a larger building. A new church building was built on the corner of Preston and Paris Streets, Preston Street Christian Church. It was at this location that the congregation worshipped for a number of years. Ministers serving the Preston Street congregation were Revs. H.S. Gerron, H.W. Johnson, I.S.Q. Cooper, A.D. Hutchinson, G.W. Taylor, and J.T. Ramsey.
While at Preston Street there came a discussion of State relations and a group separated from Preston Street and thus formed, Romine Avenue Christian Church. In the early 1920's still seeking a better location, the remaining members moved to Thomas Avenue and Hugo Street, just outside of the downtown area, Thomas Avenue Christian Church. The congregation remained at this location for only a few months because of the businesses that surrounded it. This section of the city was zoned for business and subsequently the congregation was pushed out of the area.
The next move was to Boll and Colby streets and was known as Boll Street Christian Church. In February 1942, Rev. M.C. Dickson was called as Senior Pastor. The congregation relocated to South Dallas, on the corner of Forest Avenue and Wendelkin Street in the late 1940's under the leadership of Rev. Paul A. Sims. In 1953 Rev. M.C. Dickson was recalled as Senior Pastor.
In the late 1960's the congregation was informed by State officials that the church building was located in the path of planned construction of a new highway, which is now Interstate Highway 45. On August 13, 1970, the Forest Avenue Christian Church building was demolished.
The church then appointed a steering committee along with the pastor to look for a new site for the congregation to worship. After a long search the committee met with officials of South Third Street Christian Church, located on Warren Avenue and Latimer Street. Rev. A.H. Lewis was the pastor of South Third at the time. After prayerful negotiations and considerations, the two congregations merged as one in Christ. A new building was built at Warren Avenue in 1972.
On March 5, 1972, the Warren Avenue Christian Church held their Entrance Service in their new church building. On April 9, 1972, the Warren Avenue Christian Church building was dedicated. On September 2, 1979, just seven years later, a Mortgage Burning Ceremony was held.
In 1990 as the church continued to carry out the work and ministry of the Lord, they realized they were not growing numerically. Some of the members had been discussing adding new pastoral staff due to Rev. Dickson's declining age and health. That year the theme for our Homecoming Celebration was "Through the Decades...God's Spirit Empowers."
The 1992-1993 church year brought about many changes. Rev. Dickson announced his retirement on September 21, 1992 effective 90 days from that date. Our congregation was saddened at his announcement but we understood. We began to make plans for retirement festivities.
On April 3, 1993 a retirement banquet was held at the Holiday Inn. Guests, friends, and family along with national, state, regional, and district leaders attended and sent greetings. Rev. Dickson served some 48 years in full time Christian service as a minister of God.
With the retirement of Rev. Dickson, the church was now in need f a new senior minister. The Pulpit Committee was activated and began to search for a new minister. On April 4, 1993 the congregation met and voted to call Rev. Lloyd Facen as the senior minister and he accepted the call on that date. An Installation service was held for Rev. Facen on June 13, 1993.
Rev. Facen was community oriented and was instrumental in working toward racial reconciliation. In the North Texas Area, Rev. Facen participated in a pulpit exchange with Creekview Christian Church, an Anglo Disciples congregation. Rev. Facen was also interested in mentoring and grooming men and women for the ministry. Two of Warren Avenue's most notable sons of the ministry are Rev. Dwayne Rodgers (Senior Pastor of Bonnieview Christian Church and Rev. Dwight Rodgers (Senior Pastor of Shady Grove Christian Church). Rev. Facen faithfully served Warren Avenue until his death in 2010.
During the interim, Warren Avenue called retired Disciples Pastor, Dr. Claude O. Maples to serve as interim. Dr. Maples (The Bishop), prepared the congregation for the future, a new era in it's life. During his tenure, the congregation reevaluated its Bylaws and Constitution, making significant changes toward becoming a more progressive congregation. Dr. Maples ministry and service to the congregation was critical in preparing them for their future with a new pastor.
On August 19, 2012, the congregation made history. Dr. Irie Lynne Session was called to serve as Senior Pastor. She was the first female to serve in that capacity in the congregation's 142-year history.
Raised in public housing in New York City, Dr. Session developed a value for education, a passion for social justice and love of God’s word. She holds an undergraduate degree in Social Work; a Master Divinity w/concentration in Black Church Studies from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth, Texas; and a Doctor of Ministry in Prophetic Preaching & Transformative Leadership from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York.
During the first several months of her ministry, with the support of the Elders and church Board, Dr. Session proposed a "cultural brand" for the congregation,The AVENUE. The cultural brand was not a name change but a compelling way to identify the congregation that is relevant and fresh. In making the decision for a cultural brand, Dr. Session's decision was informed both theologically and socially. From a theological perspective Dr. Session considered the ministry of Jesus Christ: "As we read the gospels we find Jesus ministry was outside the synagogue, in the street and among the community; the marginalized, the last, least and the lost. Jesus was in a very real sense, on The Avenue. Therefore, if our ministry is to resemble that of Jesus' then it will be socially relevant, and that means, engaged with and connected to, it's community and the culture."
The Avenue continues serving The Lord in the 21st Century.