The Eastland Church of Christ has a very rich history. Many members of the Eastland congregation were pioneers of the first black congregations of the Church of Christ in Fort Worth. This group had its beginning in 1923 under the leadership of a Caucasian brother, T. H. Merchant, on the north side of Fort Worth. Because many of the African-American members lived on the south side of Fort Worth, two families–Hezekiah and Pearl Talley, and J. H. and Erthly Miller–opened their homes on Verbena and Pulaski streets so that the congregation could meet on the south side. The congregation also held outdoor gospel tent meetings, which led to the baptisms of new converts from various areas of Fort Worth. The Polytechnic Church of Christ, a mission-minded predominantly white congregation, provided financial support and leadership.
Open air and tent meetings continued with various preachers, including G. P. Bowser, Marshall Keeble and Richard Nathaniel Hogan, who later served as the congregation’s minister before moving to Los Angeles. Continued growth helped the congregation become more self-sufficient. Other preachers who worked with the congregation included Paul D. English, Lovett Johnson, Shelton Gibbs Jr., A. J. Hairston while a student at Southwestern Christian College, and John Steve Winston, Sr.
When one considers the history of the Eastland congregation, you have to mention New York and Leuda St. Church of Christ. In 1940, the church purchased and renovated a house for worship at 969 E. Leuda St. In 1955, G. E. Steward was hired as the congregation’s full-time minister, and he served with his faithful wife, Elmo. Growth of the congregation led the brothers to seek a larger facility in 1956. After searching for available properties, the decision was made to purchase a building at 1201 E. Allen Avenue. In September 1956, the congregation became known as the Allen Avenue Church of Christ.
Due to life changes and continued growth in the early 1970s, the congregation’s leadership explained that another decision was necessary concerning the church building. The current Eastland church building was built in 1950 and was originally a predominantly white congregation. Their elders, deacons and other members began inviting the black neighbors to worship at Eastland. They wanted to keep the facilities for the Church of Christ, so the original Eastland brothers proposed to give the facilities to the Allen Avenue congregation if they would relocate to Eastland Street. The Allen Avenue congregation accepted and moved to Eastland Street in the summer of 1972.
With the move, G. E. Steward became the minister of the Eastland Church of Christ, and Eastland was his last and most fruitful ministry. The fact that he was blind did not hinder him from spreading God’s word. His extensive Bible knowledge led many to refer to him as “the blind wonder,” and he started First Sunday Singing to encourage fellowship among the congregations in the Fort Worth area.
In 1975, as Bro. Steward’s health began to fail, Donald C. Fulbright, minister of the Mitchell Boulevard Church of Christ, recommended Vencil A. Burton to become the congregation’s interim minister. Along his wife, Texanna, and family, Bro. Burton began a new affiliation with the Eastland. Bro. Steward and Bro. Burton developed a father and son type relationship. After Bro. Steward died in 1979, Vencil A. Burton became the full-time minister for Eastland and labored faithfully for 24 years. He implemented several ministries, including missionary work in Ghana, West Africa. Bro. Burton served Eastland until health problems caused him to retire in 1999.
In November 1995, another young minister, Loyial James Williams III, along with his wife, Yolanda, and their children came to Eastland. Bro. Williams accepted the offer to serve as minister after Bro. Burton’s retirement. Bro. Williams also invited a young Southwestern Christian College ministerial student, Brandon Holt, to serve as the youth minister until 2003.
After Bro. Williams left Eastland in 2002, Bro. Roscoe Rhodes, Sr. became Eastland’s minister. Bro. Rhodes and his wife, Carion, served until 2008. Afterwards, Bro. Kevin Jones became the congregation’s minister, serving faithfully along with his wife, Clarissa, and their two children until 2013.
Charles E. Fulbright, Jr. became the congregation’s minister in August 2013, after serving in Memphis, Tennessee, at the South Germantown Road Church of Christ for seven-plus years. Bro. Fulbright is married to Sherilyn Fulbright, and has two sons—Charles III (Trey) and William (Billy). Weldon Flemings came to Eastland in May 2017 to serve as the congregation’s associate minister. The congregation continues to serve with an ambitious Outreach Ministry to share the gospel with residents in the surrounding neighborhood, including the adoption of the A.M. Pate Elementary School, Weekend Backpacks, and the Taste of Eastland.
On Sunday, March 4, 2018, the congregation ordained its first group of three elders—Travis Grigsby Sr, George Neal and Andrew Simmons, and one deacon—Tracy Evans. The Eastland congregation continues to grow steadily, both numerically and spiritually. To God be the Glory!