Jacksonville Church reopens for the first time since Hurricane Florence


After being relocated for more than three years, Jacksonville’s oldest black church is reopening in its new facility.

According to church trustee ministry chairman Grover Lewis III, the Sandy Run Baptist Missionary Church was founded when slave owners allowed slaves to cross the street under the tree to worship. The church then expanded to where they built the facility in 1953, and then other additions were added in the 1970s.

Lewis said the church was even part of the African American Historic Trail in Onslow because of its age.

The brick of the old church was transformed into a steeple to contain the same bell of the old church.

When Hurricane Florence hit in 2018, the church suffered extensive damage, including roof peeling, falling tiles, buckling parquet floors, filling carpets with water, and then mold growth. due to the duration of the damage.

Lewis said the damage “kind of sped up an already planned reconstruction for the church. At this point 2019 has started our plan for this facility.”

Sandy Run’s Reverend Joel Churchwell has been with the church for 17 years. He said that while they were moved, Reverend Anthony D. Merritt of Changing Hearts Ministries on Gum Branch opened his premises to allow Sandy Run to hold his worship services at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, which lasted until ‘COVID forcing them to go. virtual.

“They were extremely accommodating to any of our requests,” Churchwell said.

Sandy Run Baptist Missionary Church Sanctuary takes a hit during Hurricane Florence.

The process of building the new church took a long time, as all three church structures had to be demolished. Lewis said one of the things they did was collect suggestions from members for several weeks to try and get a feel for what they wanted, which was then factored into the building .

The design form of the church is a cross.

The old village hall lost most of its roof during Florence.

Churchwell and Lewis both said they were eager to bring their congregation together in a physical space.

“For me as a pastor,” said Churchwell, “it just allows us to re-engage with the community and begin to develop tangible ministry initiatives that will continue to re-engage the community, continue to have hope, to be encouraged, continue to empower So just being able to come back and have a visual workspace is exciting. “

Lewis said he was also excited about what this brings to those who are excited about God and those who seek the opportunity to serve, as you don’t necessarily have to stay inside to use what you are. have learned.

“What we need to do is connect them,” Lewis said. “What we present to build the mind, and then what we present that allows us to come out and help build others.”

The new shrine will hold around 336 people.

The new church is much larger than the old facility, with the sanctuary accommodating around 336 people. The facility also houses a mother’s bedroom, audio and video booth, administrative spaces, 11 classrooms, a fellowship room with restaurant-quality cuisine and a choir room.

There is also a graveyard on the ground which was not touched or altered during the rebuild. They took some of the bricks from the old church and built the new bell tower, which contains the bell from the old church. Brick from the old church was also used around some of the stained glass windows in one of the classrooms.

The new stock exchange hall will accommodate around 176 people.

A pre-inauguration ceremony will be held on Saturday, December 18 at 10 a.m. for those interested in attending. Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Philips, Former Mayor Elise Smith and other elected officials will be on hand to deliver remarks.

“We’re going to kind of start from the outside and celebrate those who helped with the installation, and get them to say a few words,” Lewis said. “Then we will have a guided tour, see the facility.”

The official consecration, which will be the first service celebrated in the church, will take place on Sunday December 19 at 2 p.m.

For those wishing to attend church services, Churchwell plans that regular church services will begin the following week at 10:30 a.m.

Journalist Morgan Starling can be contacted at [email protected]


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