By Rachel Hawkins, NDG Staff Writer
In the heart of South Dallas, for 90 years the Marsalis Avenue Church of Christ (MACC) stood on the corner of Marsalis Avenue and E Grover C Washington Ave. not only as a church, but as a way of life and a symbol for the people of Dallas. To celebrate its anniversary, the church held a groundbreaking ceremony to commence its $1.5 million expansion renovation project.
“We will be building a foyer and an atrium to better serve out community and our members,” Lamont Ross, Senior Minister, Marsalis Ave. Church of Christ said.
The Marsalis Avenue Church of Christ was established in 1928, but the congregation starting meeting at its current location since 1974. At that time the congregation moved from South Dallas to South Oak Cliff when the community was transitioning from predominately White to mostly African-American. Today, the area around the facility is split between African-Americans and Hispanic, and the church ordained its first Hispanic deacon to embrace the changing demographics.
Members of the church, the banking community, city government, and county government supported the church to make the project possible.
One of the commitments the church made was to stay within the community. They had the option to go out into the suburbs and buy a piece of land to place their new building and call it home. The church stated this did not reflect their desire.
MACC has a threefold purpose as a congregation: Connecting to God. Connecting to one another as members of a common body, and connecting to the community.
“This is important to the community because as a church we are seeking to connect to God, the church and the community,” Ross said. “We want our church to not only be a place where we wordship, but also be a resource area where people can come in, learn more and utilize the facilities for community events.
MACC will host the Alzheimer’s Association’s conference next month.
“We are looking forward to doing more things like that in this community so that it is a resource for all in the community,” Ross said.
The planning for the church’s project took around two years. It was originally triggered by the church needing to repair a partially collapsed roof following heavy rains. The church decided this presented a great opportunity for a total renovation and update of the building. The projected completion date is the end of 2018, with auditorium renovations slated to be done in time for their 90th anniversary celebration in October.
“This is part of the theory of the broken windows in a community,” Marian Brown, the interim Dallas County Sheriff, said. “If a community experience broken windows and they don’t repair those windows then that community will eventually start to deteriorate, and before you know it the whole community goes away.
“Because this church opted not to move away but to be hear and to repair the windows in this neighborhood in this community, that speaks volume of the Marsalis Church,” Brown said. “It is so important that they do this. This is a bedrock of this community. The church has been here forever. I grew up right down the street from here and I remember driving many days right by this building.
“When I come though the community, I want to know that there are people that have decided that they are going to repair windows and they are not just going to pack up, and move away and leave it, but they are going to stay there and make an investment in the community,” Brown said.
The smaller street next to the church ‘Grover C Washington’, was renamed to the current name after the church’s past pastor because of his leadership.
“It’s very significant that if you change the name of a street for or in honor of a leader, then that must certainly tell you the significant of the church itself,” Dwaine Caraway, Mayor pro tem of the City of Dallas said. “This church has been here ever since I can remember, and before me.
“This church has always honored the support of the community while supporting the community,” Caraway said. “I can’t say enough about feeding and clothing, and being involved with the community. This church has so much history.”