By Lindsay Starr Platt, Correspondent
On October 1, Belton Nazarene Church will be celebrating their centennial. For a century, the church has been a part of east Bell County and calls Belton home now.
“To have a 100-year birthday is a milestone,” said church member Carol Peters. “I went to this church since I was a baby and until I was married. I had my first blind date at the church. My grandparents were two of the charter members from when the church was out by Salado.”
The church began in rural Bell County as Sulphur Springs Nazarene Church after a revival was held in 1917. The first services of the church were conducted in the Armstrong School. In 1920, the Sulphur Springs School was consolidated with the Amity School, so the church bought the Sulphur Springs School building and held services there until 1940. The church was sometimes also referred to as Live Oak Church.
“A long journey from the countryside to town and to today,” said Tommy Davis, retired pastor.
The church’s preacher, Willis French, had a vision for a church in the city limits of Belton. French called a board meeting and decided to hold a revival in Belton to help organize the church there. Willis French had quite a bit of opposition in Belton before he received permission to open the church within the city limits of Belton. The City of Belton finally agreed to the revival and the church. Belton Nazarene Church was now home at a large house at the corner of 8th Avenue and North Pearl.
The church was later torn down and the material from that house was used to help build the church that was located on 8th Avenue and North Pearl. The parsonage was built in 1946. The educational building was added in 1965.
“Much of the fieldstone rock used on the exterior the church and parsonage was brought in from a farm on Sparta, near the location of our new facility,” said Andrea Shaw, a church member.
In 1987, Pastor Tommy Davis and his wife, Marilyn, returned to the small parsonage next door to the church, to begin a second tour of duty at the church. It was apparent that the congregation was aging and that an influx of younger members was needed for the church to survive and prosper. Belton Nazarene Church looked for ways to expand its ministry and to attract new members.
“We almost had to shut the doors,” said Lodene Moore, church member. “We were down to only about 15 church members. Tommy Davis worked so hard and soon we had almost a 100 members.”
As the years passed the facilities on Eighth Avenue and North Pearl were becoming very cramped and membership had increased. The sanctuary had limited seating. There were only a few very small Sunday School rooms. The parking was limited to neighborhood streets and a nearby University of Mary Hardin-Baylor parking lot. The lack of space was apparent when the church celebrated its 60th anniversary in Belton on August 27, 2000. The sanctuary was packed with members and many people had to view the services from the entrance area. A building fund was set up and church members set their budgets to provide regular offerings into this fund. In 2000, a parcel of land on the corner Sparta Road and Loop 121 became available to the church.
In 2002, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor made an offer to buy the old church. The proceeds were invested until needed for payments on the new church. UMHB agreed to make facilities available for an office free of charge for a year. The Belton Independent School District agreed to rent space for the worship services and special church functions. Belton Nazarene Church began meeting in the cafeteria of Belton Middle School.
Construction of the new building began in June, 2006. Much of the work was performed by church members. An aging congregation had its advantages as many were retired, had time to donate. There were jobs for everyone. Children as young as seven years old helped with yard work. Many of the ladies volunteered to hang insulation. Teenagers came in groups to help pick up trash. Many of the volunteers were in their 70’s and 80’s.
“But, little by little, day by day, and year by year, the “Miracle on Sparta Road” happened because of the faith of a small group of people who believed with all their hearts that God would lead the way in the process of building a new church,” said Shaw.
June 1, 2008 Belton Nazarene Church was home at the new building on Sparta Road. The church began to grow from about 50 people to more than 125 under the leadership of Pastor McGuire. Pastor Davis remained at the church as the associate pastor until January 11, 2015. The church called Rev. Mark Tipton as pastor. He was followed in July, 2017 by Rev. Derek Whitten.