University Scholar Alumna’s Thesis Becomes Published Book
The first time University Scholar alumna Libby Feray (BA, ’20) saw First Baptist Amarillo she was sitting in Dr. David Jeffrey’s Masterworks of Arts course. After looking at dozens of photos of ancient cathedrals scattered across Europe, Feray was captivated the most by a church built during the 1920s in the Panhandle of Texas.
“I was completely astonished by the beauty of this church that was just as stunning, if not more so, than some of the cathedrals elsewhere in Europe,” Feray said. “You have this gorgeous building seemingly in the middle of nowhere at the time it was built, and so it just seemed from the very beginning there must be a story there.”
Feray’s interest in the church developed not only into her thesis project but her first published book. Earlier this year, Feray's book titled What Mean Ye By These Stones?, offering an insightful exploration into the history and architecture of First Baptist Church Amarillo, was published by 1845 Books—an imprint of Baylor University Press.
“When I was sitting in First Amarillo’s basement combing through church records, I never dreamed my thesis would go far behind the eyes of my thesis advisors and the pastor of the church,” Feray said. “Even though I’m thrilled to see this work published, what makes me the happiest is being able to give this to First Baptist Amarillo. This book is something that congregation will always have as a testament to their history and heritage.”
Throughout the pages of the book, Feray dives into how a pioneer congregation of 16 members formed First Baptist Amarillo in 1889 and went on to build a stunning building at the beginning of the Great Depression. Feray explores the history of the church alongside the historical, economic, and social context of West Texas.
“When I was doing research for the project, I read the dedication sermon of the pastor who built the church, and he referenced Jesus telling the disciples to leave Mary alone for pouring out the expensive oil and the passage in Joshua where the Israelites had just crossed into the Promised Land and Joshua commands them to gather 12 stones and build a memorial,” Feray said. “After reading his sermon, I saw that the pastor didn’t see this gorgeous building as a showy display of wealth but as an act of devotion to God.”
For former Chair of Baylor’s Board of Regents and First Amarillo’s Pastor Howie Batson, Libby’s book has meant a great deal, both to him and his congregation.
“Many of our members at First Baptist Church of Amarillo are new and lack a sense of the congregation’s history,” Batson said. “Through Libby’s outstanding work, our members have an opportunity to form a new appreciation for the cloud of witnesses that has gone before us. As we sit and worship each Sunday in one of the most beautiful edifices ever erected to honor God through worship, we now have a renewed appreciation for the sacrifices made by former generations. The grand gift they have given to us is beyond compare, and Libby’s book enables us to re-tell the story of First Baptist Church through a creative narrative.”
Feray, who now is teaching at a classical school in New Jersey, credits her time as a University Scholar for giving her the foundation to bring this project together.
“As a University Scholar, I was able to study a variety of my passions and interests,” Feray said. “It has been very poetic to me because I see my thesis, and now this book, as really combining all the different things I studied. Looking back on it now, the work was worth it. I’m incredibly grateful for the Honors College allowing me to create this piece of scholarship.”