President Benjamin Harrison was in the White House and the population of Dallas was a mere 67,000 when the First Christian Church of Oak Cliff was founded on Tenth Street one fall day.
“We don’t know the exact date,” says Minister Nita Allen, who has been at the helm of the 125-year-old church for the past eight years, now known as the Oak Cliff Christian Church. “We celebrated on Oct. 25 as our heritage Sunday.”
Church members enjoyed a concert and a meal together to mark the occasion. In addition, the church, which has long been without a signature cross, finally dedicated a new one. The 14-foot cross that now stands outside the church was made possible by Joe Whitney, Craig and Riley Davis of Davis Metal Stamping Inc. and Obed Navarro of NSG Contractors.
“They’re all from here in Oak Cliff,” Allen beams.
Looking back, it’s a little church with big local history.
Back in 1890, a small group of parishioners met upstairs in an old building, a makeshift house of worship after the church had suffered two fires that left them with only ashes. Despite the loss, and having not one dollar in the bank, their spirits stayed strong and the parish decided to buy a lot on Ninth and Beckley, where they built a small structure that was dedicated as the new church on June 1, 1893. Taking advantage of their setting, the new church members were baptized in the nearby Marsalis creek.
The church relocated to Tenth and Crawford in 1914, where a new sanctuary was built and dedicated on Sept. 10, 1916. The church thrived, growing to a membership of more than 1,000 when, in 1945, it became evident the church would need extensive structural work to continue operating. The church became divided over how to deal with the situation, with some wanting to build anew elsewhere while others wanted to fix the building on site. Eventually, some parishioners split off to form their own congregation.
In 1962, the church moved to 1222 W. Keist Blvd., where it remained until 2011 when the parish decided the property was too big, so they sold it. In 2012, they moved to their current location at 660 S. Zang Blvd.
“Over the years it’s stayed the same in its purpose to reach out and grow in the Oak Cliff community,” Allen says.