A New Chapter for the Church 4

Ridglea Presbyterian Church, which for 70 years has served its community, has new plans on the horizon.

Nothing defines a community as remarkably as a church. From the record of baptisms, to marriages and funerals, the number of hallmark events tied to a church renders it forever a landmark in the hearts of its members. Few churches represent this function so well as Ridglea Presbyterian. For the past 70 years, this west Fort Worth institution has made a home at 6201 Camp Bowie Blvd.

As all things must pass, the church has now found itself at the crux of a transitional moment. Within the next couple of years, Ridglea Presbyterian will move to a new home. This change occurs not from coercion, but due to a fortuitous set of circumstances that has won the majority approval of its parishioners. Established in 1943, Ridglea Presbyterian will begin its next chapter at a new, as-yet-determined location on the west side. As Reverend Ryan Baer is quick to say, these changes are purely symbolic, as the heart and soul of Ridglea Presbyterian exists independent of any structure.

“There’s a lot of life that’s been lived here,” says Baer. “It’s always hard to think about leaving a place that’s been home. At the same time, the church is not and never has been just a building. It’s always been the people.”

For Reverend Baer and his congregation, the forthcoming move represents more of an opportunity than a challenge. In the Presbyterian church, issues of finances and property become the sole domain of the entire congregation. Because of this, the difficult decision to leave its historic home came from a clear majority vote from the church’s members.

“This was not a conversation about closing,” says Baer. “We’re saying, okay God, you’ve got something new for us and we’re going to wait for you to show us. It was not a unanimous vote. The joke is that you can ask three Presbyterians for an opinion, and get five answers. The vote to move was passed by more than a 75 percent margin, however.”

The reason for Ridglea Presbyterian’s move boils down to simple practicalities. The land for the church building was originally gifted through the large-heartedness of the Luther brothers. As these early developers of Fort Worth’s west side considered the area of Ridglea Hills, they saw a need for a church.

“The land was given to us by the Luther brothers, and deed-restricted for 30 years to be a church. There were building restrictions to make it in the style of Ridglea Hills. As we grew over the years, we’ve kinda gotten by with a handshake and good neighbors. But it’s always been a challenge.”

Churches have unique size demands. Every wedding, holiday service, and funeral expands the burden upon parking. On any given occasion, a beloved institution like Ridglea Presbyterian will quickly overstretch the limits of its few parking spots on Camp Bowie Boulevard.

“As the church has grown over the years, between boy scout troops, community groups, and Saturday weddings, the parking can get pretty crazy,” says Baer. “The only parking the church actually owns is 10 to 11 spots on Camp Bowie. Even if we were to refit the building and bring it up to code, it would cost a significant amount of money without adding a single parking space.”

As west Fort Worth has developed, more attention has been paid to the commercial possibilities of its real estate. Nowadays, the church’s location, no longer suitable for this function, represented a prime opportunity to bring even more business and life to the area. At the end of the day, this presents a mutual opportunity, both for the parishioners of Ridglea Presbyterian — and the people of west Fort Worth.

“The commitment to serving our community is not going away,” says Rev. Baer. “We just celebrated out sixtieth anniversary of chartering Boy Scout Troop 326, which has one of the highest number of Eagle Scouts in Texas. We’ve had a commitment to being generous with the gifts Gods has given us and being a blessing to our community, and that’s not going away.”

This holiday season represents one of the final opportunities to celebrate Christmas at the historic Ridglea Presbyterian Church. The church will have a 6PM Christmas pageant service on the eve of the holiday, and a 9pm traditional candlelight communion. Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year, and the 11AM service will feature a holiday theme and carols.