A Special Dedication Ceremony For the New Memorial Garden
at the First Presbyterian Church
at 501 4th Street in Marietta
This Sunday, May 22 at 2:00 to 2:20 p.m. in the garden
Tears in the Sanctuary
A woman walked into the historical church sanctuary and said, “I was baptized in this church. Can I look at the baptismal?”
The members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (SDA) in Marietta were holding a tag sale after selling the building to the First Presbyterian Church next door — the original builders and owners of the building.
The building was part of the trolley historical tour, having been built in the 19th century (1865).
She walked down the aisle of the historical church and looked at the baptismal with tears in her eyes. Flowers lined the edges of the obviously much used baptismal, which was opened — ready for the last baptism in the building.
She wasn’t the only one who came in with similar stories, according to church members. One man said he remembered painting the sanctuary. Some people came to look at the old classroom upstairs where they had attended elementary school. The members of the SDA church shed their own tears.
We fight change, yet we want change. It’s hard to let go of objects that represent joyful memories. Sometimes letting go feels like we are losing loved ones all over again. Maybe we feel like the object is all that’s left of a person. The Marietta community has lost pieces of objects from its history, but it did not lose its history. For those who feel the loss most keenly, the Memorial Garden is a beautiful place to reflect back on the memories and pray.
The building changed hands a few times and represented three different denominations over the years. (First Presbyterians initially built it, then built their present stone building in 1897. The Central Christian Church purchased the old building in 1900, then sold it to the SDAs in 1971.)
Some of the people who came to the sale came to find a bargain, others came to say goodbye to childhood memories. One youth requested to be the last to be baptized in the building, and became the newest member of the SDA congregation shortly after the sale.
The Cost of Stained Glass Window Repair
The SDAs owned it for 43 years, but over the last 10 years, the building needed expensive repairs that the small congregation could not afford. Among other items, the building needed a new roof, and all of the stained glass windows had begun to bow. An expert on stained glass was called in and the estimates were $3,000 per smaller window, and $6,000 for the larger ones. They needed to be taken apart and re-soldered — a monumental undertaking. Once the church informed him that they could not afford the repairs, he suggested that to maintain the windows and prevent them from falling in, that they use clear packaging tape until they could be repaired. The windows were salvaged and sold prior to the demolition.
Community Needs or Windows and Roofs?
The members had approached the Washington County Historical Society but learned that there were no funds to repair churches, even though historical.
The congregation decided that ministering to the community and helping people were more important than windows, and put the church up for sale. It languished on the market for several years before they finally decided to cut the price in half. The First Presbyterian Church just next door purchased it in 2014.
Hospitality and Criticism
The Presbyterian Church offered free use of their beautiful chapel to the SDA congregation until they were able to find a suitable building. As of today’s date, the congregation still enjoys the generous hospitality of the Presbyterians.
Technology is the 21st century blessing and menace. The members of the SDA church received text messages condemning them for the demolition of the building even though they no longer owned it. The sender of the messages referred to the event as the congregation “destroying” the “church.” However, church members consider the people of the church to be the church, or “ecclesia,” and not the building. Aren’t there always critics when groups or individuals have to make a difficult, yet responsible, decision? A building in disrepair can be dangerous.
A Memorial Garden
The Presbyterian Church created a beautiful memorial garden at the site, having saved a portion of the foundation. One of the larger and more spectacular stained glass windows is framed in the corner of the garden, displaying the image of a cross and crown.
According to Pastor David Smith, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, the purpose of the garden is to provide a setting for prayer, meditation, fellowship and the enjoyment of God’s beautiful creation. It also serves as a meaningful way for members to remember their loved ones.
Pastor Smith also explained that the cross and crown stained glass window was chosen for the corner of the garden because “it captures in one image the wonder of the Savior we follow – Jesus Christ is both our king who rules all and our savior who gave all to save the very realm he rules.”
The garden design was a collaboration by members of the First Presbyterian congregation, and the professional efforts of Greenleaf Landscaping. A committee in the church coordinated the efforts.
According to Smith, the dedication service itself will consist of some reflection on the work to build the garden, a thank you to key participants in the process, scripture, a brief meditation, a hymn and the unveiling of a plaque with donor names.
The dedication should last about 15 to 20 minutes, hopefully outside. Smith said, “In the event of a light shower we will be under umbrellas, but if the weather is too bad, the group will relocate and continue inside the church.”
Photos Taken in Early Spring — Come See it in Full Bloom!