Preachers pray for Trinity CME Church's survival

Monday, July 14, 2014 6:49 PM
Last updated Tuesday, July 15, 2014 1:21 AM
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They stood on the steps of the boarded-up church, linked hands and asked out loud for God to protect the sanctuary behind them.

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Ministers gather to pray at the historic Old Trinity CME Church. More than 50 people gathered at Trinity's original site on Taylor and Eighth streets Monday to pray that it be saved from possible demolition.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Ministers gather to pray at the historic Old Trinity CME Church. More than 50 people gathered at Trinity's original site on Taylor and Eighth streets Monday to pray that it be saved from possible demolition.

With their eyes squinted shut, they prayed that Trinity CME Church’s storied past would be enough to save the vacant building from an uncertain future.

“Losing this church building would be like ripping the heart out of somebody,” said CME Presiding Elder Jetson Maness. “This building is where Georgia CME got its roots. We need to keep it here and thriving.”

More than 50 people attending the Sixth District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’s annual conference gathered at Trinity’s original site on Taylor and Eighth streets Monday to pray that it be saved from possible demolition.

The building, erected in the 1890s, has sat vacant since Atlanta Gas Light began a multi-million dollar decontamination project on the church grounds and surrounding area in 2003.

Since then, the building has deteriorated with severe water damage and structural issues. Atlanta Gas Light is expected to submit a cleanup plan to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division in August to address lingering coal-tar contamination, but what that means for the church building is unclear.

With lingering environmental contamination, it’s not guaranteed that any rehabilitation work could be conducted on the church during the cleanup process, or at all.

Earlier this month, Atlanta Gas Light said in a statement to The Augusta Chronicle that the cleanup process will include solidification of residual materials underneath the site, which “may require demolition” of Trinity.

“I hope and pray that this monument signifying history will live on past my tenure and our grandchildren’s tenure,” CME Bishop Kenneth Carter said to the crowd. “That Trinity, Mother Trinity, will be here to tell her history.”

Trinity was formed in 1840 by about 125 slaves who attended St. John Methodist Church with their white owners. A small barn-like structure, which still stands today covered in weeds, was built in 1843 before the current structure was erected in the 1890s.

The group also put their resources together to purchase the freedom of Athens, Ga., slave preacher, the Rev. James Harris, so he could come to the Trinity congregation in 1853 to serve as pastor.

In 1985, Atlanta Gas Light began soil and groundwater investigations at the former manufactured gas plant across the street from Trinity that operated from 1852 to 1955.

Soil and water tests confirmed contamination existed beyond the plant’s property lines – a result of coal tar disposed at the site and left behind after it closed.

In 1996, Atlanta Gas Light reached a settlement with Trinity and nearby residents, compensating hundreds of property owners in nine square blocks of the former plant site affected by the toxic coal-tar contamination.

Trinity received $3 million for damages and relocation costs, and the congregation moved to a new church on Glenn Hills Drive in 1998.

The building is currently being leased at no cost by Miracle Making Ministries, but the organization is unable to rehabilitate or use the building until the contamination clean-up plan is resolved.

The Rev. Herman “Skip” Mason, Trinity’s current pastor, said he’d like to see the building turn into a cultural center, as is being proposed by Miracle Making Ministries president Robert Williams.

However, Mason said he is aware Atlanta Gas Light could propose the building be demolished, so he said public outcry is important.

“It would be a loss for our church, that we would have no physical, tangible history anymore,” Mason said.

On Monday, the 50 CME conference members who came to the church to pray admired the building’s worn exterior and reflected in front of the original wooden hut behind the church.

Dark clouds formed over their heads and a few raindrops fell before they began to pray.

When he felt the rain, Mason looked up and smiled.

“I’m not one bit surprised or shocked that the rain drops fell as we started to pray and then stopped,” Mason said later. “It’s a sign from above. It’s a good sign.”

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validPoint
982
Points
validPoint 07/14/14 - 07:44 pm
1
0
A Trite Bit Confused

I am a trite bit confused because I do not understand the purpose of accepting relocation funds due to hazardous conditions, and praying for the building to remain. Will the relocation funds be use to remediate the hazardous conditions? However, it is my understanding that all of God's work is done in righteousness and truth....Based on scripture.

The comment concerning when they met to pray a dark cloud appeared and it began to rain reminds me of a certain presidential candidate meeting. When the party met to promote their candidate, the rains and even storms came down, and that candidate lost the race. I am not sure clouds and rain are a sign of righteousness and success. May the will of the Lord which is evidenced by His word be done in this matter.

just an opinion
2951
Points
just an opinion 07/15/14 - 07:26 am
1
0
Trinity- You must save this Church

Please take part of the 3 MILLION DOLLARS and allocate it (if you haven't already) to preserving this important part of history. Why did you all let it get this way? Severe water damage? You didn't keep in dry? Where did the $ go? I applaud your efforts now but why did you wait so long?

myfather15
57307
Points
myfather15 07/15/14 - 05:12 am
0
1
Is this nothing more than an

Is this nothing more than an attention grab? Historic building's are nice to keep; that's true enough. I personally love visiting historic buildings and walking through them. But, as another commentor on here pointed out, why did they let it get this run down? Why hasn't it been used or even taken care of since 2003?

Also, those praying for this; are simply thinking with the flesh and not spiritually. That building is nothing more than brick and mortar!! Buildings come and go, spiritual fulfillment lasts a lifetime. God is not a respector of fleshly things!!

soapy_725
44144
Points
soapy_725 07/15/14 - 07:46 am
0
0
...the rain falls on the just and unjust... think about it
Unpublished

...the rain falls on the just and unjust... think about it

soapy_725
44144
Points
soapy_725 07/15/14 - 07:48 am
0
0
How about a federal grant? No, separation of church and state?
Unpublished

Which is more important? Hummm? The BENJAMINS of course.

soapy_725
44144
Points
soapy_725 07/15/14 - 07:49 am
0
0
Why aren't they praying for their ungodly community? Priority?
Unpublished

Why aren't they praying for their ungodly community? Priority?

soapy_725
44144
Points
soapy_725 07/15/14 - 07:50 am
0
0
They can auction off the MRE's and raise some money. Those
Unpublished

should have been donated to the "feed kids for the summer" fund.

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