Church about $800,000 in debt after project

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: July 24, 2006

Parker Memorial Baptist Church finished a two-year, $4.2 million renovation of its sanctuary with a dedication ceremony at its Sunday morning services.

The project, which originally was intended to bring the sanctuary up to fire code, has been in the works for seven years, said Valera Johnson, chairwoman of the renovation committee.

“I just think the beauty of it (is the best part),” Johnson said. “One of the things that the architects wanted to do is make it more conducive to worship, and I think they accomplished that.”

The renovation of the 119-year-old building was done by CTSM, an architecture firm based in Birmingham. The project included new wiring, cleaning and releading the original stained-glass windows, new staircases to the balcony, a reconfigured stage area, digital projection screens, removing carpet and refinishing the hardwood floors, painting, a new baptistry and new heating and cooling. The church also installed a state-of-the-art, $500,000 communications studio.

When plans for the renovation started several years ago, they only included repairing the organ and repainting and carpeting the sanctuary, said Mitch Hurt, chairman of the Celebration Committee.

“We determined there was much more needed in order to keep the sanctuary so that we could use it for many years to come … and at the same time protect the integrity of our building that has stood as a landmark here in Calhoun County,” Hurt said.

Johnson stressed that the changes had protected the Victorian building.

“This is a lot of change for those people (who have been in the congregation all their lives), but we did maintain the integrity of the original structure,” she said.

Charles Martin, pastor emeritus of Parker Memorial, said the changes were necessary.

“It was in bad shape, it was in awful shape, nothing had been done to it in 30 years,” Martin said.

In his sermon, former pastor Billy Harris said the new sanctuary should serve as a reminder to the congregation to continue their service to the church.

“It doesn’t matter how beautifully appointed a worship place is, what really matters is the beauty of the people,” Harris said. “That’s what makes the difference, the building is going to be tremendous but what really matters is the people.”

Harris said that Parker Memorial is about $800,000 in debt as a result the renovation. The rest of the cost was paid for by fundraisers and contributions from church members.

Mary Barnes, a member of the congregation, said she thought the renovated sanctuary would help the church draw new members.

“It updated the church, for one thing, and I think it will be a signal to the community that we are here to serve and bring them into the house and the love of God,” she said.

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