Historic Black Church Re-Opens in Jacksonville, Texas

The sanctuary of the historic Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church once again gives off a warm, welcoming glow as services resume after nearly a two-year hiatus. The Rev. Tracy Clater, who was a member there as a child, now leads the burgeoning congregation.
Progress photo by Jo Anne Embleton

“Wilt thou not revive us again: That thy people may rejoice in thee?”

– Psalm 85:6

A historic black church in north Jacksonville has reopened its doors, giving both pastor and congregation cause for rejoicing.

A Feb. 17 opening service “was like a homecoming, opening those doors,” said Pastor Tracy Clater of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church. “We had some people come in from San Antonio, and we had children (who had grown up in this church) come back for the service. The Lord blessed us with a packed house.”

The 908 N. Ragsdale St. church traces its roots to 1906, when a handful of men and women came together to organize a church under the supervision of Rev. W.A. Alexander, according to a church history.

Members of the congregation met in the A.M.E. Methodist Church for more than a year, until 1908, when “they were able to build a small church below the present building,” the history noted.

Growing by leaps and bounds, by 1914 the present church was erected; 30 years later, in the late 1940s, several classrooms, a dining room and restroom – along with carpeting in the sanctuary – were added.

However, throughout the years membership declined, and approximately two years ago, the church closed its doors, Clater said.

“From what they told me, the membership had gotten smaller, and was kind of fading out,” he said, noting that during the mid-February worship service, “we took in between 25 to 30 people … when I took over as pastor, there were only four or five members who considered themselves connected (to Rising Star). And I think one of those members had been paying for the light and the water for the church.”

As they prepare the church for future use, Clater said they will focus on resolving maintenance issues and updating some of the church’s features, such as repairing the ceiling, painting and refurbishing the original wooden floors, along with ensuring that A.D.A. requirements are met.

Meanwhile, people are looking forward to the re-opening of the church, the pastor said, recalling how he was told “people were really excited, driving by,” knowing that it would re-open.

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Source: Jacksonville Progress