HISTORY OF RIVERSIDE CHURCH OF CHRIST
Our fellowship of saints began in February, 1940, when two families met in one of their homes with a visiting evangelist. The American Legion Hall on Congress Street was secured as the first permanent meeting place for the saints. This location was used for about one year, but due to the building being condemned, the church moved to the City Courtroom in the Old City Hall Building. At these early meetings, five to ten members attended regularly, and often, no men were present. To increase the membership, utility lists were obtained from the City of Lafayette and every person that had any affiliation with the church of Christ or the First Christian Church were contacted. In addition, church members volunteered to assist in registration day at The University of Southwestern Louisiana. These saints aided in recording the church preferences of students.
During World War II, the courtroom was needed for a classroom for the V-12 Program. During this time, the saints met in the homes of the members which provided a very warm, happy environment for fellowship and allowed them to draw closer together. In 1943, the Jewish congregation in town offered its Jewish synagogue, Temple Rodelph Sholom, as a meeting place. The building was offered rent-free by this very generous group. Riverside’s membership had increased to about twenty-five. With the small number, each member assumed more responsibility and the spiritual growth, faith, determination, and persistence of the Christians was evident. Two Sunday School classes were held, one for adults and one for children.
In 1948, land was purchased at the corner of Oaklawn and University Avenues. Seven families were attending, so this endeavor required a tremendous sacrifice on the part of each family. A building was erected on the site, with much of the labor being furnished by the members. The first meeting in the new building was on Sunday, April 17, 1949. Also, for the first time, a full-time minister was employed. Previous to this, men of the congregation and an occasional part-time minister had conducted the teaching and preaching. The church of Christ in Port Arthur, Texas, provided financial assistance to Riverside along with support from other small congregations. The body grew during this time with many other people from the community, as well as several members of the Christian Church attending regularly. A home for the minister was purchased and refurbished by the members one-half block from the new church building on Oaklawn.
With continued growth, a new auditorium was built facing University Avenue and the old building was used for classrooms. The new auditorium seated 225 and was often filled to capacity. The saints continued to be active and several programs prospered including a very active visitation program, a kindergarten program, home Bible classes, workshops, and several gospel meetings. A new home for the minister was purchased at 421 Oaklawn and the former dwelling was used for the kindergarten program and for Sunday morning classes.
The kindergarten program was discontinued when public school kindergartens were implemented.
In the fall of 1969, a church building was completed at 111 Camellia Boulevard. This project was quite a feat in that the members supplied all of the labor, under the supervision of a hired superintendent. This project fostered many close relationships and fond memories that remain with many. After completion of the new building, a Homecoming was held in February, 1970, with many former members in attendance. A balcony and cryroom were added to the auditorium in 1984, with the congregation meeting in the Plaza Theater across the street during construction.
In June of 2013, after much prayer and God’s providence, we completed Phase 1 of our current church building at 200 Southcity Parkway. Here we have enjoyed room to grow, with improved seating capacity of over 300 in the main meeting area, a Children’s Education Wing, an Adult Education Wing, as well as facilities to assist with disaster relief. A birthday celebration is planned for summer 2014, when we will celebrate our first full year at our new location.
Present ministries of the body include an active youth program, an active visitation and evangelism program, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, young professionals ministry, missionary support, Children’s Church, Vacation Bible School, and community outreach Bible studies.