ADDISON, Texas — A little chapel steeped in African American history was close to coming to a sudden end after 135 years of services at a corner near White Rock Creek in Addison.
But next Tuesday, the community and the North Texas family who helped save it, will celebrate White Rock Chapel's rebirth as a place of reconciliation and continued purpose.
The original White Rock Chapel was built by freed slaves in 1884 who pooled their own money for the effort. They even received help from their former slave owner, who provided a parcel of land on the condition that a church always stand there.
Last year, still standing at the corner of Winnwood and Celestial Road, the Texas historic landmark was in receivership, essentially on a path to auction potentially to become home for more of the same multi-million dollar mansions that surround it now.
"When the three of us talked about it, given the history that is so deeply woven into this land, that would have been a tragedy," said Dr. Donald Wesson.
Wesson – along with his wife, Wanda, and son, Donald – arranged to buy the church property, restore it with the help of contractors and volunteers, and make it a place where everyone and anyone in the community can gather together.
"It will provide all of us a space of peace and hope," Wanda Wesson said.
In a racially-motivated and often repeated action nationwide in the early 1900s, her ancestors were forcibly moved from an African American settlement called Quakertown in Denton, an area near what is now Texas Women's University. Her heart couldn't stand something like that happening again.
"I don't want to see another piece of history being removed if we could have anything to do about it and stop it from happening," she said.
The final preparations underway are for an event next Tuesday when the landmark, and it's newly refinished copper steeple, will welcome people to recognize the past but also to look to the future.
"But it's just bringing that back around to what does this church look like and how does this church function for the next 400 years," said Donald Wesson, who runs Mountain Top Construction.
The volunteers at work on the chapel now include people who were formerly incarcerated or in recovery from addiction. Cornbread Hustle, a staffing agency for second chances is working to create a sober faith-based co-working environment for people so you can come to church any day of the week and work on your personal growth and transformation.
They are working side by side to rebuild the community with a company Mountain Top Contractors, which is a construction company that only employs second chance individuals.
On August 20, they are asking that the community come together for a community workday.
"Our country needs this right now. With everything going on in the world...we need God," Wesson said.
The entire community and all walks of life are invited to the event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 20.
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