December 4, 2017 10:18:15 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
A pair of churches that faced pressure from the city last month due to code violations have started work to rectify their issues.
At Antioch Third Baptist Church, work has started to repair the building's aging roof, which the city's planning department found to be in violation of city code. In early November, aldermen voted to give the church 60 days -- until Jan. 7 -- to fix the roof, which suffered from extensive, visible deterioration.
Aldermen gave Second Baptist Church, on Yeates Street, the same amount of time to clean a construction site that's languished since work stopped on a planned new sanctuary.
Antioch, which is located at the intersection of Gillespie and Spring streets, is more than 100 years old.
Pastor Mary Carr said the church received help from Carpenters for Christ, along with some donations from the community, and is now working to fix the roof.
The church drew particular attention, and citizen complaints, because it's near the Russell Street corridor, which the city has poured millions of dollars into for renovations to turn into a primary thoroughfare to Mississippi State University from downtown.
"It was an eyesore to people and we know this," Carr said. "We thank God that the eyesore is being renovated and making things look better for us as a church family."
On Friday, volunteers were hard at work atop the roof as they pushed along on repairs. Danny Cheatham, a member of a discipleship group at Starkville's First Baptist Church, said the group decided to help when group member Leroy Howell brought Antioch's need to their attention.
"We've been studying the Bible and the issues of salvation," he said. "We felt we needed to get outside the walls of the church with some projects. As a result of that, we started exploring how to work with a group of guys and bring in some volunteers."
Cheatham said the discipleship group is donating financially to help Antioch, while volunteers with Carpenters for Christ and Nailbenders for Jesus -- some from as far away as Brandon and Mendenhall -- are working to fix the roof.
Antioch got a building permit for the work on Tuesday, according to Starkville Planning and Development Director Buddy Sanders.
Cheatham said the work started Thursday.
"When Dr. Howell brought this to our attention, we immediately began to study it, think about it, pray about it, and the Lord just led us all to realize this was a project that was worth doing," he said.
Carr said she's grateful to the volunteers for stepping in to help the church.
"We're very grateful and thankful to the Carpenters for Christ, because they're the ones who are spearheading all this," Carr said.
Cheatham said FBC is also accepting donations toward the Antioch project. He said any donations can be made out to the church and designated for the Antioch roof repair.
Louis Jenkins, another volunteer with the FBC discipleship group, said the group wanted to do what it could to keep Antioch from closing.
"There are 1,000 churches a year that are shuttered," he said. "We don't need fewer churches. We need to maintain the churches that we've got. It's just a conviction that we've got that this church is worth saving."
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, who pushed to have the properties' issues solved within 60 days, said he was "ecstatic" to see the work moving ahead.
"I was just so happy and I was very surprised that such a number of people showed a great interest in the property," Perkins said. "It appears that they're moving forward."
At Second Baptist Church, located on Yeates Street, work is underway to clean up a construction site that's laid bare in the wake of a contentious expansion project that's embroiled the church in civil litigation.
The city's planning department found the site, for the church's new sanctuary, to be in violation of city ordinances after the church's building permit expired in October.
Second Baptist started work on the project after obtaining the permit in fall 2014. However, the work ground to a halt shortly after starting.
Since then, project contractor Donald Andrew Crowther has been indicted on false pretense charges. His trial is set for Jan. 24, 2018.
Meanwhile church trustees have filed a lawsuit against Crowther, Pastor Joseph Stone Jr. and Head Deacon Terry Miller in an effort to recover more than $400,000 they claim was paid to the contractor without the church board of trustees' authorization.
The Dispatch could not reach Stone or a board of trustees representative for comment by press time.
Perkins, as with Antioch, said he was pleased to see work in progress to rectify the code violation at Antioch.
"I'm excited for Second Baptist," he said. "I'm excited for the community and the entire city that they are moving so quickly and expeditiously. I was greatly impressed when I saw the equipment in motion (Thursday). More than half of the construction site, in my opinion, was cleaned up on (Thursday)."