Historic Georgiana church to be torn down

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2003

The congregation of the First Baptist Church of Georgiana has faced a sad fact – their beloved church building, built in 1866 with Rev. Pitt Milner as its first pastor, will have to be torn down because of irreparable structural problems.

&uot;The church members have done all they could over the years to try to repair the building, but the damage is too great now; there’s nothing more we can do,&uot; said long-time church member Renford Dean, who began attending the church in the 1930s.

The church, which is one of the oldest in the county and reportedly has unique architecture for this part of Alabama, has a roof that is slowly sinking, and as it sinks, is pushing the exterior walls out, causing cracks in the structure, and is in danger of collapsing.

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Newly appointed pastor of the Georgiana church, Allen Stephenson, said it breaks his heart to have to tear down such a wonderful building with an incredibly rich heritage, but he also doesn’t see a way out.

&uot;The church officials have had engineers in here, several of them, the past few years, and each one has advised us to tear it down – stating that it was dangerous to continue to hold services here,&uot; Stephenson said.

The pastor said that the church, as it currently exists, also presents a problem for its handicapped and elderly members.

&uot;The church has three levels on the back part of the building – the fellowship hall is downstairs and the education classes are upstairs,&uot; Stephenson said. &uot;It is becoming increasingly difficult for the older members of our congregation to get up or down those stairs. We need to replace the church with a single-level structure to give all of our church members easy access to all parts of the building.&uot;

Stephenson said a new church seems to be the best choice for First Baptist, and the church leaders are in the process of raising money to finance the project.

In order to preserve the historical value of the church as much as possible, church leaders plan to use as many of the current furnishings and fixtures as possible, including the vibrant stained-glass windows that grace the front and sides of the structure.

Because the structural problems of the church also have affected the stained-glass windows, causing cracks and bowing of the glass, restoration of many of the windows will be necessary.

&uot;We would like to get sponsors for the removal and restoration of the stained-glass windows at the church,&uot; Stephenson said. &uot;The large window on the front will cost approximately $5,200 to restore and the other smaller windows will cost in the $1,400 range.

&uot;The plans for the new church will include the windows,&uot; he said. &uot;They are such a vital part of the church’s identity; we really want to take them with us.&uot;

Anyone interested in making a donation or sponsoring a window restoration can contact Stephenson at 382-7528. Windows can be adopted in memory of someone and will have a plaque in their honor attached under the window in the new church.