First Baptist Church of Cleveland closing 60-year-old sanctuary, making plans for new building

First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Texas, photograph by Moon Young, date unknown; University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Cleveland Historic Society.

First Baptist Church of Cleveland, located at 400 W. Hanson St., will hold its last service in its sanctuary on Nov. 17. Starting on Nov. 24, church services will be moved next door to the FBC Family Life Center.

The old structure will eventually be torn down to make way for a new sanctuary. Pastor Tommy Ham, who has led the church for two years, said the move is bittersweet.

“The sanctuary is outdated. It has a lot of ongoing issues and it’s not what we need or can take care of,” Ham said.

The old sanctuary was opened in 1961. It was built to seat 600 people and served the community well for decades. Ham said that upkeep on the building has become a tremendous burden on church members, who were unified in the decision to close the sanctuary.

“When we talked about it and decided to do it, there was no opposition,” Ham said. “Even though it is bittersweet to be leaving it, this is the right decision for the church.”

Before the old sanctuary is razed to the ground, the beautiful blue stained glass windows and other sentimental items will be removed and preserved for the new sanctuary.

“We have some beautiful old pews that we will probably preserve. We also have some gorgeous pianos that we are going to keep, including a Steinway and a baby grand,” he said.

The new sanctuary will allow the church to focus more on its people and less on keeping an old building with problems in use.

“This is a good move for us. We want our energy to be put into reaching people. One of the things that we are prioritizing is ways to reach families and to serve the students and children in our community,” he said. “I think this is going to help us do that.”

Ham said the church’s plan is to build a new worship center and children’s facility on the property. The children’s facility will have indoor play areas, increased security and be more open.

“The new building will have a more inviting atmosphere. We are going to do it right when we can,” he said.

The community is invited to attend the last worship service in the old sanctuary on Nov. 17. Service times are Bible Study at 9:30 a.m., Morning Worship at 10:45 a.m. and Evening Worship at 5:15 p.m.

To watch Ham give a final tour of the sanctuary, click here:

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.


  1. James McLin
    My father, Oree McLin, was a local contractor who worked extensively on the building of this sanctuary along with other fine local contractors. My 3 brothers and I worked in some aspects on the building along side my Dad, even in a minimal way. My Dad was a deacon here, and our family worshipped at FBC along with so many fine citizens of the Cleveland community. The style of worship at FBC in the 1960’s was always a revival experience, which so many of the the new congregations and sanctuaries are missing today. Too much of the worship / praise services today is entertainment from the stage and pulpit, instead of heartfelt hymnal song longings, and hearing God’s Word.
    RIP FBC of a greater time .

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