FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)—Harold Riley saw firsthand what sacrifice for the service of the Lord looks like. His father, Ray Riley, left a steady job as an oil field foreman in the panhandle of Texas because the Lord called him to ministry.This journey required theological education, which eventually brought the family to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Boy, there must be a lot of money in this preaching business,” the naive 13-year-old Harold thought at the time. Over time, though, the young man witnessed the sacrifice that his father would make to serve the Lord and saw him trust in the Lord’s provision for their every need. Many times, it was only through the generosity of others who would give the family enough money to make it through the month.
“I have great admiration, I have great appreciation, and I have great thankfulness for the fact that God called my father into the ministry,” Harold Riley said. “I saw the life that we lived and the struggles that we had getting through the different schools, with seminary being one of them. But, God always provided.”
This impact influenced Harold and his wife Dottie to give a substantial lead gift to Southwestern for the purpose of building a new 3,500-seat chapel. This lead gift served as a catalyst for others to join in raising funds for the much-needed facility, fulfilling the seminary’s goal of receiving in pledges at least 85 percent of the total cost before breaking ground.
Southwestern’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the authorization of the administration to proceed with the construction of the new chapel, which will be located at the center of the campus, Oct. 21. A ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony was held that afternoon, with special guests Harold and Dottie Riley and their family present.
“I’ve found that as we live our lives, they’re for other people,” Riley said. “And that’s what all of this is about right here—leading other people to follow Christ. We wish all of you well in the development of this project, and we are pleased that we have the privilege of participating in this.”
Southwestern president Paige Patterson spoke of individuals who will come to faith in Christ or surrender their lives to foreign mission fields in the new building.
“Some people will call what we’re about to build a chapel,” said Patterson. “Others may call it an auditorium. Some may call it a worship center. … What we’re dealing with is to build a transaction house, a house where spiritual transactions take place that have eternal consequences. It’s not worth building unless that happens.”
The new chapel will be a world-class venue for training pastors in expository preaching and a place where the entire seminary family can come together in worship and celebration. The building will also house musical performances by the School of Church Music, such as the annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah.
Currently, the seminary is unable to hold graduation on campus due to a lack of adequate seating in its present chapel. The new chapel will be one of the largest indoor event facilities in Fort Worth, providing a premier auditorium to serve the campus family for its gatherings and celebrations as well as the city of Fort Worth and surrounding communities.
With steel and construction costs plummeting amid current economic times, local city projects have taken advantage of the opportunity to build for less. Southwestern anticipates a savings of nearly at least $10 million.