By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal
ABERDEEN – While the process of moving a church from Darracott to Aberdeen mixed suspense with comedy on national TV, the closure of Bro. George Vance’s dedication sermon recapped it on more of a Biblical scale as the keys of the church organ drew out in the background.
“Praise to Brother [Dwight] Stevens for taking a building in decay and turning it into something beautiful. As we all stood along Main Street watching debris drop, we wondered how it could make it this far. As if hell said it couldn’t go any further, God wouldn’t give up,” Vance said last Sunday morning as members of Spring Creek Missionary Baptist Church gathered in the James Creek M.B. Church.
The process of moving the crumbling church from its original location to the lower lawn of the Adams French House was featured on the HGTV reality show, “Hometown Renovation.”
In a matter of months, it went from being a shell of its former self to freshly painted fixture to Aberdeen’s antebellum heritage.
“I want the world to know Aberdeen is a historical place with its share of historical events and this building bares witness to them,” Vance said.
While seeing the exterior in passing several times, original James Creek member, Curtis Outlaw, didn’t see the interior until days before Sunday’s service.
“Today is great. Growing up in this church, it was never this nice. It has air conditioning now, but back then, we’d just have a breeze coming through the windows and we’d still have to keep cool with hand fans and programs. Seeing it now is like seeing something dead come back to life,” Outlaw said.
After most of the original members of James Creek died off, its sister church, Spring Creek, welcomed the remaining members to join its congregation. The building remained empty for nearly 25 years until Stevens coordinated with Curtis and his wife, Flora for the relocation.
“We needed the land the church stood on for a cemetery so we were really looking for someone to tear it down. Somebody had approached us about burning it down, but Dwight said he wanted to fix it up. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would look this good. I want to thank Dwight for keeping the dream alive and I know the ancestors of the church and those who passed on were looking down smiling from Heaven today,” Flora said.
Since reopening, the church has hosted weddings, gospel singings and Pilgrimage visitors in its new role as a place for the community.
“It’s still James Creek and I welcome this congregation to come back to host services or any other civic purpose. It’s rewarding to see a gathering like today after all the work we went though to renovate this building,” Stevens said.
To cap off the service, the congregation hosted a dinner on the grounds, which was a throwback to the old church’s old socials.
“Back then, we didn’t even have tables so they truly were dinners on the ground,” Flora said.
In addition to the congregation of Spring Creek M.B. Church, special guests included the Outlaws’ daughter and her family in from Atlanta and the three daughters of one of the last deacons at James Creek, Deacon Henry Rodgers.