FORT WORTH — Broadway Baptist Church members have gone underground.Towers of scaffolding that went up June 2 now dominate the sanctuary of the church on Fort Worth’s near south side as the building undergoes a major makeover.Until the scaffolding comes down, members are worshiping in a multipurpose space underneath the sanctuary, said Pastor Brent Beasley.“We have a hall down below the sanctuary and we’re worshiping there on Sundays,” Beasley said. “We have to set up metal chairs for each service, then put them all away again. We’ll do that all summer and hope to be back into the sanctuary by Sept. 7.”That’s typical of a congregation that refused to leave the near south side location where the church settled in 1882 even as its neighborhood went through changes, said Mitch Whitten, a church spokesman.“Generations ago Broadway made a commitment to stay in the central city, and it now has a diverse membership from all socioeconomic levels,” Whitten said.New seating, flooringBut the members are less committed to the 1,500 theater-style seats that were installed in the 1950s.Also, the last time any substantial remodeling was done was in the mid-1990s when a new, 10,615-pipe Casavant pipe organ was installed, which necessitated other remodeling at the front of the sanctuary. The organ was named in memory of Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn, a church member and mother of the late Van Cliburn, also a church member.So this year, when a family of members donated $1 million, and others in the congregation brought the total to $2 million, a long-held renovation plan was accelerated, Beasley said.“It started with a desire to get new seating,” Beasley said. “The old seats have been there since the early ’50s and were pretty worn out. If you got the wrong one the metal would poke you. They’re also four inches lower than normal seating, and that’s just really uncomfortable.”So the first phase of renovation includes custom red oak pews made in Pennsylvania, Beasley said. The ends of the pews are designed to blend with the rest of the sanctuary’s woodwork, and their cushioned bottoms won’t be poking anyone.New flooring is being installed, and some cracked walls are getting much-needed attention.To make room for the scaffolding, some of the pipes for the organ had to be moved.“We had to take down quite a few pipes during this process, so they won’t get messed up,” Beasley said. “There are more than 10,000 pipes; we didn’t take them all down.”‘Vision and transformation’And as quick as they move back into the sanctuary, Broadway’s members will start tearing up something else, Beasley said.“This is the first step in a much broader renovation project that we’ll kick off in September,” Beasley said. “We’re redoing the children’s building and the youth building, hopefully simultaneously. We’re in the process of determining exactly what will be in that phase.”The renovation goals aren’t just to make the church more comfortable for its members, Whitten said. The plan grew out of the “vision and transformation process” designed according to the church’s priorities, which include sharing Christ’s story and reaching out through Christian education.So, first the sanctuary, then other campus spaces that support core programs for the next generation, then general accessibility, Whitten said.“A third phase could focus on making Broadway’s campus more accessible, from the parking lot to adult classrooms,” Whitten said.Rehearsal space for Broadway’s music programs could also be addressed, Whitten said.“It’s so exciting to see the recommitment of this church to the neighborhood that’s obviously growing up around us,” Whitten said.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans