There’s a little white church in Van Alstyne with nearly as much history as the town itself. Van Alstyne was officially established in 1872, and five years later the Morning Chapel C.M.E. Church on East Marshall Street was bringing fellowship to the city. It’s still working for the good of not only its congregation members, but others as well.
But the years have taken their toll on the small church on East Marshall Street. Now that congregation is fundraising to be able to give the aging facility a facelift to include new boards and paint on its weathered exterior.
“We just want to complete the work here that we started,” Pastor Yolanda Smith-Simpkins said, referring not only to the current congregation, but those of past decades.
Church board member Ron Murphy said Morning Chapel originally began in the Mantua area, but soon moved, as did the First Methodist Church, to Van Alstyne. The building in use now is the same one built 132 years ago, except for the Fellowship Hall portion on the west end. That, Murphy said, was destroyed in the 1980s by a fire, and so they restored that area as soon as they were able. And church officials have been able to keep the interior in reverent and usable condition. But neither the elements nor the small congregation’s wherewithal have been so kind to the exterior.
The needed exterior maintenance is not for vanity purposes. Smith-Simpkins said she wants to have it presentable in order “to attract visitors and new members, to be welcoming, a place for newcomers, and really to have a well-kept facility.”
Murphy said they need between $8,500-$10,000 to be used for power washing, labor (in addition to the manpower they can and will provide), a prime coat and the final coat of paint. There is also some need for replacement of deteriorated boards. He said that “the more manpower we can get, the more we can spend on materials.”
The church membership has also been active in the community, such as the special prayer service it held in May for Van Alstyne High School students. They also participate in other churches’ activities, such as their school-age students attending Vacation Bible School at the nearby Samaria Baptist Church. Smith-Simpkins said they hope to be able to keep the doors open more often, rather than just be a place for Sunday worship “so everyone could be served depending on their needs, no matter what faith or what church they go to. We’d like to have more activities for the children especially during the summer, and make it available in case of emergency, such as maybe if a tornado hits, or a place for gathering in time of grief.”
They are getting some help from the First Christian Church and from Texas Star Bank, both of whom have added their financial support. They’ve had some doors closed to them, but they are understanding when that had to happen.
Murphy said the pastor inherited the problems. She was transferred to this church seven months ago and lives out of the city.
“She hit the ground running, and really wants to make a difference and bring in some revitalization,” Murphy said.
One essential person needed, church officials said, would be someone experienced in grant-writing. Those who wish to contribute can do so by mail to the church at 1047 E Marshall, Van Alstyne TX 75495, Attention: Building Fund. Murphy said that anyone who may have either a curiosity or question about the proper use of the funds can ask and the accounting records, list of deposits and donations, will be open to them.