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‘It’s like the burial of an old friend’

Tim Croft
The Star

One chapter closes, another opens.

The week was bittersweet for parishioners and elders of First Baptist Church of Port St. Joe as demolition on the building, torn apart by Hurricane Michael, got underway.

“This is like the burial of an old friend,” said Pastor Boyd Evans. “There are all the same emotions.”

Asbestos abatement on the building, which was dedicated in 1959 and replaced the original sanctuary, dedicated in the 1920s and located across Third Street, had been completed.

The stained-glass windows were carefully removed the prior week to await the new sanctuary, which is in the works.

Even for those who did not worship at the church, the building, with its steeple, was a landmark of many commute into Port St. Joe.

For some who worshipped at First Baptist, who had observed the wreckage for almost two years, Evans said the demolition would “bring a sense of closure.”

But, he added, most parishioners also understand that a building is not a church; they are.

Until COVID-19, the church had been using Port St. Joe Elementary School to conduct services.

During the lockdown, as with many churches in the community, Facebook and Zoom filled the void.

The congregation, with social distancing in place, has steadily returned the past two Sundays, with Saturday drive-in services also well-attended.

Evans said while the week was bittersweet, there is also hope in the demolition of the building.

“It is sad, but it is also a move forward,” Evans said.

The church has closed with the St. Joe Company on land along Field of Dreams Ave. across from Gulf Coast State College’s Gulf/Franklin campus.

That will be the future site of the church.