By Adam Armour
Itawamba County Times
FULTON – Lately, Alan Naylor has been building a church.
It’s not a big church by conventional standards. The fact it’s able to sit on a worktable in his basement is a dead giveaway of that. But standing approximately four feet tall at the tip of its towering steeple, and roughly just as long as it is high, the handcrafted walnut church is anything but miniature.
It’s roomy, too: Running along either side of the building are a total of 24 nooks – rooms meant to hold letters or cards. Featured prominently in the back are two large stained-glass windows, each taller and wider than a man’s hand. A cross, maybe a foot tall and half as wide, sits above them.
Around front, just above the double doors leading inside (which, Naylor has yet to properly attach; they’re free-standing for now), there’s a small bell. It could theoretically ring on the hour should someone be inclined to give it a tap at the appropriate time.
It’s a big miniature church, constructed by hand over countless hours. For his part, Naylor remains relatively modest about what most people would likely consider an impressive accomplishment, even in its unfinished state.
“There’s a little sanding to be done,” the Fulton resident said, his soft voice and English accent nearly masking his sarcasm.
Just as long as he can remember, Naylor has been shaping wood into all kinds of things. Standing in the living room of his daughter and son-in-law’s home (Victoria and Robert Blake), where he lives, the eye touches on more than a half-dozen pieces created by Naylor’s hands. Cabinets, bookshelves, the island in the kitchen, the bar separating the kitchen from the living room, the dining room table and both the writer’s desk and corner cabinet facing it, the table in the breakfast nook overlooking the waterway, the stairwell, the wooden floor underfoot are all Naylor’s doing. The walls of the house practically bulge with his handiwork.
“I’ve made one or two things in my life,” Naylor said, smiling slyly. “I’ve always been able to do it. It’s something I can do and enjoy while doing it. I like having a purpose … It’s hard work, but relaxing. It’s good therapy for anyone getting old.”
That’s kind of how Naylor became involved in the business of building small churches. Several years ago, while attending a funeral in Nettleton, Naylor spotted a small post office box inside the church foyer, available to drop notes or cards to members of the congregation, inside the foyer of the church. As someone in constant search of a new project, Naylor was hit by inspiration.
“It was just a box,” Naylor said. “I thought I could probably build something similar, but make it look like a church.”
So he did.
Comparatively, Naylor’s first church wasn’t as large as the one he’s building now. It was still impressive, and just like everything else he builds, Naylor gave it away. It sits in the foyer of Itawamba Christian Church in downtown Fulton.
Like its predecessor, the new church, once finished, will be donated to a church in Smithville, recently rebuilt after being destroyed by a tornado two years ago.
Asked how long he’s worked on the project, Naylor shrugged and said he didn’t know.
“I don’t count the hours; it doesn’t go into it, to be honest,” he said, then asked rhetorically, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes, does it? It’s the journey, isn’t it?”
He paused, then answered his own question with confidence.
“It’s the journey.”
Even so, Naylor admitted to setting his own personal deadline for the project’s completion.
“I want to be finished by Easter,” he said. An appropriate date to finish a church, if ever there were one.
When asked what it felt like to complete such a massive project, Naylor smiled.
“It’s nice to accomplish things,” he said. “When this is finished and in the foyer of the church, you can’t help but be proud.”
He thought for a moment, then added with a nudge of his elbow, “But not too proud … especially inside a church.”