HometownBrazos County

Actions

Forced to vacate old property, College Station church prepares for new start in Bryan

Posted at 10:56 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 23:56:13-04

BRYAN, Texas — The Unitarian Universalist Church of the Brazos Valley is under construction in Bryan - the new building, that is.

The congregation has been worshiping together out of College Station since the 1950s.

In 2017, due to eminent domain, this historic organization was forced out of its church building located on Wellborn Road near the Texas A&M campus.

According to church members, the Texas Department of Transportation [TxDOT] first informed the church of their intent to take their land and tear down the house of worship in the late 1990s, as part of an expansion project on Wellborn Road.

Rev. Kiya Heartwood has only been pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church for a little over a year now. She wasn’t there to see the decades-old original building on Wellborn Road and has instead had to lead worship either in her home office over Zoom or at the Neal Recreation Center in Bryan.

"I had a lot of experience making videos and stuff, and we have been able to do it," Heartwood said. "Our congregation is unique in that a lot of the members have been here for more than 20 years.”

Congregants like Molly Hagan-Ward lived in a constant state of uncertainty until the move-out day finally came in January 2017.

"It was pretty intense," Hagan-Ward said. "You are told for so many years in advance that this change is going to happen and you’re going to need to leave, but you have no idea when it’s going to occur. And you start to have those conversations of, 'where are we going to meet in town?'”

Church members told KRHD that they were pleased to be fairly compensated by TxDOT for the property's value at the time. But as inflation and construction prices have risen over the past five years, the church has had to fundraise to see their new church on 29th Street in Bryan actually be built.

“There are [about] 1,000 congregations over the United States, and when I had my ordination in Austin, they gave over $18,000 towards this building," Heartwood said.

It’s been a long road renting out worship spaces and having church online these past few years, with no place to call home. But miracles haven’t passed them over. Heartwood said the church membership has blossomed in size.

"I think a lot of people during the pandemic kind of realized what was missing when they were forced to be [alone]," the reverend said. "And I think a lot of people who were un-churched or not involved in the church looked for a place where they’re going to be accepted."

Church members commented that they aren’t angry TxDOT took their building away because the relationships they have with each other are the real foundation that keeps them strong.

The new building was scheduled originally to be completed in April, but that completion rate was pushed back by a few months several times. Heartwood is optimistic that the new building will be completed by Christmas this year.

Anyone wanting to donate towards the construction of a new children's playground at the church [an item that was available at the old location, yet over-budget at the new spot] can visit the church website at:

Unitarian Universalist Church of the Brazos Valley in College Station (brazos-uu.org)