Listen: Can our churches be houses of healing?
In the midst of a global pandemic, I found a…
KERENS, Texas — Big Tex was born here.
The 55-foot icon of the Texas State Fair got his start in this small town — south of Dallas, about 12 miles east of Corsicana — as a 49-foot Santa Claus in 1949.
It was a giant ad campaign to promote holiday sales. Santa was modeled after a local grocer, Ottis Franklin Spurlock, and someone named Hardy Mayo (which, to me, also sounds like an ad campaign).
Like most such things, the novelty wore off quickly. In 1951, the State Fair bought Santa for $750 and transformed him into Big Tex. I’m guessing the cowboy hat is where the added height comes from.
A more recent transformation caught my eye as I pulled into the parking lot of the Kerens Church of Christ on a recent Sunday morning. The newly refurbished building has brightly painted columns and welcome signs. One of the elders, Gerry Harris, greeted me and told me how much he and the congregation appreciate The Christian Chronicle.
Inside, I got all kinds of nostalgic in the pristine A-frame auditorium. Some walls of the surrounding classrooms had been removed for additional seating.
It’s a wonderful mix of old and new. Two flat-screen monitors frame the baptistery, which is lit from behind through a beautiful, stained-glass depiction of mountains, palm trees and a river. Above are the words “BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM, ROMANS 6:4.”
The church was supposed to have a big celebration for the remodel last year, but you can guess how that went. On at least two occasions I had been asked to fill in for minister Jimmy Glenn, but the pandemic kept us apart. I’m glad we could finally make it happen.
There were at least 70 folks gathered for worship, so I’ll preacher-count it at 100. The small church has big vision. I found out that my friend Dmitri “Big Dima” Grishchuk of the Let’s Love Good News ministry in Ukraine had spoken the week before. I enjoyed swapping travel stories with one of the members who has done mission work there.
After worship, the church hosted an amazing fish fry feast. I sat across from some visitors from a nearby Baptist church. I loaded up a to-go box for the trip back home.
Honestly, if the town of Kerens, Texas, wants to launch a new ad campaign this holiday season, this is how to do it. The Kerens Church of Christ offers visitors more than just a beautiful building. It’s full of beautiful people with beautiful feet, willing to travel the globe or just walk down the street, preaching the gospel of peace, bringing glad tidings of good things (Romans 10:15).
The novelty of that message never wears off.
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