On May 28, 1890, in Singer’s Store on the headwaters of the Brazos River, a single family and a preacher-farmer met for what is considered the first Christian service in Lubbock County or on the Texas High Plains. Members of the Church of Christ were to gather together in many places – homes, school, courthouse, jail, the Nicolett Hotel and a blacksmith shop – before building a meeting place in Lubbock in 1906.
A chance meeting of H. M. Bandy and the W. S. Clark families, both on a quest for West Texas land, was the genesis of the Broadway Church of Christ. They had known each other in Thorpe Springs at Add-Ran College, a center of the New Testament Christianity movement. So impressed was Bandy with the area that he went back to Thorp Springs to recruit other members of the church for pioneer ventures on the South Plains.
That fall , 41 persons composing families of men, mostly former students at Add-Ran College, started for Lubbock County. In 14 wagons, holding family and household goods for a new life, they rolled slowly westward, stopping each evening in time for campfire services with hymns and Bible readings. On Sunday mornings the wagon train paused an hour for worship –the Lord’s Supper and sermons by Bandy or another preacher, S. W. Smith. The migrating congregation included families of men like D. M. Alley, John B. Green, W. N. Green and George Smith.
One member of the wagon train, W. G. Nairns, filed on land where the church founded the Children’s Home of Lubbock many years later. Most of the new settlers bought land in North Town, which housed the Nicolett Hotel and a big blacksmith shop used for worship services after the group arrived November 12, 1890. North Town, located north of present-day Lubbock, was fighting with Monterey Town for the right to be the Lubbock County seat. In February 1891, after the two settlements consolidated in the new location as Lubbock, S. W. Smith preached the first sermon in the new town of Lubbock. The worship service was conducted in the dining room of the Nicolett Hotel, which had been moved south across Yellowhouse Canyon with the rest of North Town.
Members gathered for Sunday worship in homes, many of them half-dugouts, and any other location, including the Lubbock County jail. Since most of the men were farmers, most of the services before 1900 were held in the Canyon schoolhouse east of Lubbock.
In 1900, a young preacher from Lockney with relatives in Lubbock, Liff Sanders, became the first minister. He had been coming once a month, arriving Saturday and leaving Monday, since 1899.Sander’s home probably was the first matching fund venture in the county. Sanders raised $100 and the church members put in $100 for lumber to build his home. Sanders supplemented his salary by working in a general store.
By 1906 there were enough funds for lumber to construct a church building. Sanders and members of the church who earlier had helped build his home put up a small frame structure on Main Street near where the Santa Fe tracks were to be. Lumber for the venture was hauled from Canyon in freight wagons. The next year, homemade benches build by the members were replaced by pews ordered from Ohio.
By 1917, the depot area was getting too crowded, so the little building was moved to 10th Street and Avenue L where it was dressed up with a new steeple and other modern looks. The original church members had grown to 125, kids and all, when the 1917 move came. One old-timer recalled that the first classes were held in little groups around the one big room.
In 1923, with Lubbock on the go and a new college going up to the west, the congregation again was swelling the seams of the little church building. The area was beginning to be crowded by business growth a block in each direction from the square. Hopes were bigger than the budget in 1923, so the members moved into a first phase of their new building at Broadway and Avenue N. In true pioneer style, the building was a "half dug-out". About 225 members moved into the basement and there were 350 by the time it was completed. The concrete and brick basement, half in and half out of the ground, was topped out in 1926, the year after Texas Tech opened.
Church growth kept pace with Lubbock and Tech and by 1932 there was a wooden education annex beside the brick church building on the quarter-block owned by the church. In the 1930’s the first off-shoot of church members established a new congregation at 17th Street and Avenue G. By 1944, even with congregations sprouting wherever Lubbock expanded, Broadway was conducting two services on Sunday mornings with floor and balcony filled for both. Church ownership had expanded to half a block by then, but Lubbock businesses and other churches had crowded in again. Expansion on the current site would leave no parking space.
Looking farther out, Broadway church planners purchased most of the long block now occupied by the church building. There was one holdout, some property that would be right in the middle of the proposed structure’s auditorium. By taking the short end of a swap – the half block where the First National Bank-Pioneer Building now stands for the wanted land –the site was obtained. More than 1000 made the journey west on Broadway to the current facility which now serves 2,500 members.
Missionary work, according to Sanders’ memoirs, began before the first church building when the congregation sent $10 a month to a preacher in New Mexico. After World War II, the church geared up to help put Christianity back into war-torn Germany. A member spent a year in Germany buying property for church buildings. This venture was in conjunction with churches all over the United States.
Other mission work extended throughout the U. S., into British Columbia, France, England and Scotland. For many years, the church helped support a children’s home in Luling, but in 1953 ground was broken for the Children’s Home of Lubbock. The leadership for Broadway serves as a broad of trustees for the home’s activities which includes additional children in foster homes around the state.
Come join us as we explore how to "act justly, love kindness, & walk humbly with God" - Micah 6:8