Bethel Baptist Church/ Bethel Park, Houston

Welcome to the first Boombox post of 2019! Hope the holidays treated you well and that you are ready to hop back into the narrative. We have some big things planned for 2019, so thank you for following along and share with your friends!

I love how Houston continues to surprise even it’s longtime residents (“Houstonians”, y’all, in case you were wondering) with gems in the middle of the city in some relatively unlikely spots. I was first made aware of the converted 4th Ward former Baptist Church turned City Park by a friend who would spend some time clearing their head here.

The Church, originally constructed of wood in 1889, was destroyed in The Great Storm of 1900. Between 1900 and 1920, a second church structure was erected over the remains of the plot, also later destroyed. Twenty three years after the structure was destroyed, the brick inlay you see above was completed. Services were held at the church until 1997, when the congregation moved to a new location. On January 24, 2005, a fire destroyed the interior of the church, leaving 3 walls of exterior brickwork in tact and a few concrete supports. In 2009, The City of Houston purchased the remains of the building and the lot with the intention of preserving the historic site while also converting the space for public use.

Along the interior of the open top and well supported walls, you can find quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. precisely engraved into stone. There are concrete benches for which to sit and take in the views of a partial downtown skyline among the steel supports juxtaposed to the arches of what once served as a place of worship for a community.

To the rear, you can find a moderately small green space, no longer surrounded by brickwork, but as an open area of recreation.

Depending on when you arrive, you might stumble upon a marriage proposal or fashion photo shoot in progress. Everyone I have ever seen at the location has been courteous of time and space. In many ways, while I recognize that having to rebuild no less than three times may not have been Reverend Jack Yates’ (who carries an incredible history of his own around Houston) vision for the location, what has remained true is that this is a place of gathering and community, whether you are taking time to gather your thoughts alone or engaging as part of a community.

In a world filled now more than ever with isolation through our devices, I have to take a step back to recognize the importance of community.

As we entered into 2019, I took a little time to evaluate not only goals for myself, but also assessing where I have come from and where I am. Admittedly, 2018 was a rough year in as many ways. I chose to let go of some relationships, hoping to dive further into career.  I started to work to establish routine and accountability that I also had let fall by the waste side. I have not been very graceful in any of the above; in dealing with others, in stumbling professionally (despite being reminded that it looks like winning), failing at finding instantaneous results from my routine and notably being graceful with myself.

What I am really getting at is that I still have a lot to learn. And, I am trying and learning to count the slightest of wins.

If I take nothing else away from the story of Bethel Baptist Church, now Bethel Park, is that this might take longer and be a harder road than I’ve imagined. But rebuilding, reshaping, refocusing is possible. There can be grace in the journey.

I chose Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” this week because outside of only a religious connotation that I think pairs nicely with the church front, this song dominated radio waves when I was in middle school. Upon re-release through Vinyl Me Please, with whom I have a history of being “hit or miss” with, a second listen also pairs with my current observations of journey and experience as I enter 2019. I’m trying my damnedest to learn the lessons of last year and find gratitude and the celebrations of not only the path for what it has been but what it is now and moving forward.

I wish you peace. I wish you grace. I wish you strength. I wish you happiness.

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