It was late Sunday, December 31, 1882, when six men and three women made their way through the cold, blustery winter winds to a meeting at the Texas Wesleyan University facility in downtown Fort Worth. The nine persons meeting on the last day of 1882 were dissatisfied members of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth. The group decided to establish a new church and name it South Side Baptist Church.
On Sunday, January 7, 1883, the newly established congregation extended a pastoral call to John Smith Gillespie and he quickly accepted. On the following Sunday the church gathered in a rented building in downtown Fort Worth for its first service. By October 1889, Fort Worth had a population of approximately 23,000 and the church had a membership of 145. The church had also completed a new house of worship and a parsonage.
In mid-1890 the name was changed to Broadway Baptist Church. On Saturday afternoon, April 3, 1909, a huge fire swept a 20 square-block area on Fort Worth's south side destroying 261 buildings, including Broadway's new parsonage and its three year-old brick church building. Twenty-two families in Broadway's membership lost their homes in the fire. Nearly a thousand people were left homeless. By mid-summer of 1918 the average Sunday School attendance was between 500 and 600 and total church membership was 1,172.
On January 1, 1930, there began the most far-reaching benevolent ministry ever to originate within Broadway Baptist Church during its first century. Mrs. Ewell Hicks Lena (Holston) Pope, teacher of the Martha Sunday School Class, led the members of her class in the founding of a home for neglected and dependent children. That institution, known as the Lena Pope Home, still exists and has grown to be one of the most notable children's homes in Texas.
During 1943, Broadway Baptist Church, in comparison with other churches affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, was reported to be ranked as follows: ninth in total membership, third in total mission gifts, and sixth in baptisms.
Contracts for constructing the current sanctuary were awarded August 7, 1949. In 1950 the congregation voted to approve a contract with Casavant Freres, Ltd. of Quebec, Canada, to construct a pipe organ to go in the sanctuary for $46,500. The sanctuary building and organ were completed in the spring of 1952 and it was opened on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1952. A combined total attendance of more than 5,000 was reported for the three dedicatory services held that day.
For more than a century, Broadway Baptist church has played an integral role in the life of its community. In the late 1940's, the congregation faced a decision: to move out to a residential area as many other churches were doing, or to remain in the inner city in order to minister to the whole city of Fort Worth. The church chose to remain in its present location and to build a magnificent sanctuary. However, Broadway was determined to be more than just a place of beauty for the worship of God. The members were guided than by a philosophy still held: A great church does not sit in splendid isolation in its surroundings; it seeks to serve. Broadway made a commitment to serve the "down and out" who live in the inner city, not just the "up and coming" who live in the suburbs.
The congregation believes that Broadway exists so that families, young and old, rich and poor, near and far, can hear the gospel and learn of Jesus Christ. Giving life to their beliefs, Broadway's members are active in many ministries and mission projects. They also regularly open the church's doors to community and arts organizations which use Broadway for meetings, recitals, performances and conferences.
Looking to the future, Broadway's members will continue to serve the community, faithful to the gospel as revealed in Jesus Christ.