Century-old church finds new life in generous gift

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A century old church was revamped thanks to a generous donation from the previous tenants. (KTRK)

Today, the West End Church is a cross between the old and the new.

Rightfully so, you might think this century-old Baptist church would be the last place you'd find hundreds of millennials on an early Sunday morning.

Back in its heyday, the church boasted some 2,000 worshipers every week, like 78-year-old Nancy Williams.

"I've been in this church all my life and I know all the history of it," Williams said, "We've always been considered, or considered ourselves to be a family."

But over the years, attendance dwindled, leaving Nancy and a handful of others to decide the Baptist church's fate.

"We don't feel like God wants this to be turned into an apartment building," Williams said.

So naturally, they prayed on it.

"I said, 'God has brought us together here for a purpose,' and we felt very strongly that God wanted us to make sure that this place stayed here."

Meanwhile, the pastor of "River Pointe," a non-denominational church in Fort Bend County, was looking to expand inside the loop. Turns out, Patrick Kelley was the answer to West End's prayers.

"This group of people, although small, they're faithful and they wanted the legacy that started in 1895 to continue as a church here," Kelley said.

Despite what the Baptists could have sold the church for in the Rice Military Neighborhood, they gave it to Kelley for free.

"That's what was miraculous," Kelley said. "It was unpredictable that they walked away from a lot of money as a church in order that they may continue a heritage here."

Pouring $6 million dollars into the building to modernize it, they revamped not only the church's structure but also its soul.
Samantha Jones, 24, is now one of a growing number of millennial-aged, new faces in the pews.

"I felt heard, I felt like I wasn't just another body in the congregation," Jones said.

"It's very conversational, it's very relatable, every message is," Jones said. "It hits you so deep because it's like, 'oh my gosh, I needed to hear that, that is exactly what I needed today'."

Kelley says a big part of West End's success is the "real talk" where conversations about dating, divorce and drugs aren't taboo.

"What we think has connected with this younger generation is we've provided a place to be authentic and transparent," Kelley said.

And of course it helps to have a cool look too.

"This is the original speaker for the organ that was built in 1954," Kelley said. "We made it into a coffee table."

Embracing the new with a nod to the past: a reminder of the church's roots as the new West End continues to grow.
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