First Christian Church A Brief History
In 1903, when Albuquerque was a dusty town of 30,000, a small band of believers organized a church patterned after the First Century church described in the New Testament. Thus, First Christian Church came into existence. During the early years of the church, the congregation met at 122 Broadway Southeast, east of the railroad tracks that border Albuquerque’s downtown. The church’s slogan at the time was “A Friendly Church in the Heart of a Friendly City.” Although the building has changed owners numerous times since then, the cornerstone bearing the name “First Christian Church” remains visible from the street.
One of the earliest church newspapers still in existence, “The Door-Knobber”, dates from May 13, 1911. Herman P. Williams, the minister at the time, wrote an article that commends Albuquerque’s mayor for refusing to open the local baseball season because it had been planned for a Sunday afternoon. “Baseball is a fine thing in its place” the article stated “ but its place is not to displace things that are better. Sunday is a special day because of the churches. Sunday ball games and Sunday theaters are in another class. They are out of place.”
The church enjoyed moderate growth from that time through the 1960’s. A list of First Christian’s ministers during that time included Mortimer Hawk, Clifford Dance, J.J. Mussick, Al Althaus, Harold Hossom, and Lester Ford. Also during that time, it was evident that the city’s growth was leaving the South Broadway area behind, with major growth occurring to the north and east, all the way to the base of the Sandia Mountains.
For a number of years, there was much discussion concerning the question of relocation of the church. Finally, in 1967, the church voted to move to a new location. Concurrent with plans to move, the church also entered into merger discussions with the congregation of the North Albuquerque Christian Church, which was also considering relocating to the Northeast Heights. Following an offer by the city to lease the Broadway building, the stage was set for both merger and move, with the combined congregation temporarily meeting at North Albuquerque Christian Church’s 4616 Second Street location.
The search for a suitable location in the Heights ended in the early 1970s with purchase of 5.45 acres of land at 10101 Montgomery in a developing suburban area a few miles from the base of the mountain. Staff at the time included Don Stramm and Dalton Carr, former ministers of the merged churches. Construction on the first phase of the new building began in April 1972. Phase one, which totaled 10,000 square feet, contained the 330-seat sanctuary (now the Fellowship Hall), classrooms, and the foyer (now the Chapel).
Following the church’s relocation, First Christian experienced significant growth and soon realized that the new building was rapidly becoming too small. In 1975, the church issued a $455,000 bond to finance construction of the second phase of the facility. Completed in 1977, the building now totaled 30,000 square feet, with a sanctuary that seats 650.
By 2003, Albuquerque has grown to be a major metropolitan area with more than half a million residents. Growth in the Northeast Heights has largely given way to growth on Albuquerque’s west side, and First Christian has become a well-established landmark in the Heights. Mature neighborhoods characterize the area, and many young families are moving in, replacing original homeowners to ensure that the community remains vibrant and dynamic. Thus, there are many opportunities for even greater growth, as it is estimated that more than 200,000 people live in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, within 5 miles of the church. With this in mind, First Christian looks to the new century with much optimism as we redefine our focus and channel our resources toward greater success in meeting Christ’s Great Commission.