PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WMBB) – The First United Methodist Church of Port St. Joe began the demolition of their sanctuary Sunday morning.
Reverend Dr. Geoffrey Lentz is the senior pastor at the church. He said after Hurricane Michael, the sanctuary was devastated.
“When we entered the building, we discovered that it was no longer structurally sound,” Rev. Dr. Lentz said. “It had stained glass blown out and walls cracked from the moving of the towers and it was just no longer salvageable.”
Judy Williams said she has been a member of the church for as long as she can remember.
She said coming to terms with the loss of the building has been tough.
“Seeing our church be underwater and all of the things that we’ve loved and cherished and all of the memories just being washed away was just a heartbreaking experience,” Williams said. “But I have learned over the last three years that the church is truly just a building. Today was hard for me but I have memories in my heart and in my mind that I will never lose.”
Williams said she is planning on taking a brick from the demolished sanctuary as a keepsake.
“It’s been a long process working up to this very moment but we were pleased to be able to take a step forward here on this third anniversary of the storm to tear down this beautiful old sanctuary and to begin again,” Lentz said.
The church is hoping to break ground on the new building on the first of next year.
Construction is estimated to take about two years, and the new facilities are expected to be open in early 2024.
“We are starting a new building process and we hope to be able to have a new red brick church with stained glass windows and a nice tower sitting here on this holy ground that’s been holy to our community for generations,” Rev. Dr. Lentz said.
The steeple will come down on Wednesday, October 13 at 4 p.m. EST.