The Beginning of Bright Light, 1886-1893
At the start of the Central Texas District Association, A.M. Stewart moved his family from East Texas to the Bryan area where he continued his church planting ministry. While in Central Texas, Stewart continued his missionary venture following the Randall Movement of the Free Will Baptists.
There were several other trailblazers involved in the establishment of churches in Central Texas including the highly regarded W. T. Woods and J. J. Tatum, along with T. A. Searcy, S. T. Thomas, and others. (Murphy, T. 2017, p. 25)
The first Free Will Baptist church in Central Texas was Bright Light, which was then in the community named Harvey located not far from Bryan. In 1886, Bright Light Free Will Baptist Church of Harvey, Texas was organized that summer by Rev. P. H. Adams.
Later, as Bright Light was moving forward with the progress of the organization, a revival under a brush arbor (like the one shown here) was held with Rev. A. M. Stewart providing the message. Revivals tend to hold a celebratory setting that also allows for church members and others to sit with the Holy Spirit, meditate on Him, and have one's soul reignited or encouraged.
At Bright Light's inception, there was not a designated church to worship in of their own. For some time, those few who come to know Bright Light as their church home would meet under the shade of oak trees or at locations once known for community gatherings.
Here are just a few of the earliest members of the church:
Mr. & Mrs. J. B. Adams, Mr. J. B. Loyd, Mr. & Mrs. Green Jolly, Mr. & Mrs. C. H. B. Graham, Mr. & Mrs. Allen Dyess, Mrs. Mary Graham, Mrs. Mary Raines, Mrs. Sarah Dyess, Mr. & Mrs. A. B. McSwain, Mrs. Jane Graham, Mr. & Mrs. Green Buchanan, Mr. & Mrs. Will Goen, Mr. & Mrs. D. P. Cole, Mr. & Mrs. F. J. Cole, Mr. & Mrs. Kan Kelley, and Mr. Joe Ransom. (Cole, C. 1954)
The Buildings, 1900
Materials for the first church building were transported from East Texas sawmills by wagon thanks to A. B. McSwain, Green Buchanan & Will Goen. This particular building was razed in the year 1900 and was then demolished to be replaced with a more current and suitable one.
The land on which the church sits was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Green Buchanan. The Bright Light cemetery was donated to the church by Mr. & Mrs. Nathan Cotman.
The cemetery currently has graves that go back to the start of Bright Light church.
Names such as W. T. Wood who was the second pastor might be noticed, or A. M. Steward who we mentioned as one of the first in Central Texas to start Free Will Baptist churches,
In the early years, the church met with the preacher when he was in the area. This was part of a rotation for the pastor and he most likely saw each congregation once a month. This rotation of churches was typically noted or coined "circuit churches".
In about 1942, the church made arrangements to share a preacher with another country church. This plan lasted for about four years, until Alvin Halbrook from Leadington, Missouri was called to serve at Bright Light.
Once Halbrook came along, five more acres were donated by General Howard Davidson in order to provide residence to the new pastor. This made it far more convenient for him to serve closely. Rev. Halbrook served 23 years at Bright Light.
Here are some names of the past preachers to come through the doors of Bright Light:
Rev. Alvin Halbrook; Rev. P. H. Adams; Rev. W. T. Wood; Rev. James Tifton; Rev. A. M. Stewart, Rev. L. L. Morris; Rev. J. J. Tatum; Rev. I. C. Ferguson; Rev. Sam Thomas; Rev. C. C. Wheeler; Rev. T. H. Newson; Rev. Ollie Smith; Rev. J. P. Brown; Rev. J. M. Handy; Rev. James Vaughn; Rev. Robert Wiggs; Rev. R. E. Conner; Rev. J. E. Lovering; Rev. J. L. Bounds; Rev. Don Lombard; Rev. Albert Keech; Rev. Don Ellis; Rev. Everett Hellard; Rev. Gary Bird; Rev. Mike Mize; Rev. Paul Dean; Rev. Mike Fields, Rev. W. H. Richards, and Rev. Matthew Grady Calhoun.
In the year 1953, the congregation decided in November that it was time to build a new church structure. The committee responsible for raising the money for the project which included the design and construction included names such as:
Mr. N. C. Cole; Mr. C. F. Goen; Mr. J. J. Foster; Mr. Bud Graham, and Mr. Arnold Shultz.
Here are a few clippings from Bright Light's history. Notice the names mentioned and the impact they have made in the past years.
Since 1886, the church has been comprised of hard-working men and women. Here is a clipping that references the third building to be erected.
Prior to the college taking on this name, it was known as the Free Will Baptist Bible College.
The college was doing well in its early years until it ran against an obstacle that required more money. Around the late nineteen forty's, the college needed to expand to house the growing number of enrolled students. Therefore, they purchased additional property but it soon became difficult to sustain monetarily. This was a moment in the Bible college's history that could have been its demise.
So, as the concern became apparent in the Association meetings, Clyde F. Goen who was already a well-respected member of the association for his heart and passion for serving the Lord through Bright Light, felt this burden heavy on him.
This part of the story is well known in the history of the Goen family because of the extraordinary circumstance and the faith Clyde had in God. When he returned, Clyde saw his local banker to request a loan for $10,000 to give to the college. After strongly advising Clyde not to do it, the bank loaned him the money.
Clyde Goen continued to be a faithful supporter of the school. So much so that sometime in the nineteen sixty's, Clyde contributed more to the school which inspired the school to christin the men's dormitory with the name "Goen Hall".
Revivals are commonplace at Bright Light. Revivals are known to last about three days with celebration and fellowship along with worship.
Notice the accolades to Rev. Mooneyham from Rev. Alvin F. Halbrook.
As members of Bright Light in the year 2022, we will be ever thankful for those men and women who sacrificed, served, and worked to make this church a place to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Bright Light Free Will Baptist Church has been here for 136 years, we pray that we continue to only serve our Lord and to always live up to the name given by our forefathers.
- Murphy, Thurmon. "From the Red to the Rio Grande": A History of the Free Will Baptist Work in Texas". FWB Publications. 2017.
- Mrs. Clara Cole, Alice Cole. 1954.