Stories of the South - Pheba Baptist Church
I took these pictures last year when I found out that Pheba Baptist Church was slated for demolition. A new church was built several years ago and I heard several rumors about what was to be done with the old building. It would be renovated for a chapel, the youth would use it for their activities, etc. But over time it became clear that no maintenance plan was going to be carried out. The roof began to sag and then I heard the news that bids were being taken for demolition. What a waste of a perfectly usable building.
In the past few months I began to see that the windows had been removed, the front columns, the pews, the doors. Little by little the building was being stripped of anything found to be of value. I thought to stop and take a picture of the shell left by these efforts Saturday morning on my way to Mom and Dad's but I hesitated. My hesitation was a symptom of my feelings on the matter. It felt wrong. I felt like I would be taking a picture of a corpse. A once vital, significant building had been deemed to be past its prime. Past care. Past thought. Past consideration. Not worth the time and effort needed to preserve it. It made my heart ache. I slowed down, but did not stop either of the two times I passed Saturday.
Why would a church established in 1914 be cast aside. A church so proud of it's 100 year anniversary last year they invested in a banner to make sure everyone that passed knew of this benchmark in their history. Maybe the decision was not causally made. Maybe it was with great thought and consideration by all involved. The decision was made to cast it aside none the less. It is a sad day when we don't respect our history and the physical representations of it.
A country church is a physical representation of the faith and community of a town. The land is usually donated as are the materials and the labor to built it. Maintenance is continued by future generations of church members and their donations. It's our responsibility as stewards of those gifts to maintain and protect them. This building when abandoned was not in poor condition, at least from the outside. It needed a roof and I'm sure interior repairs but it was not beyond saving. Instead the wainscoting was stripped and used in the new church as were the pews I'm sure.
As I'm not a member of the church and never have been I really don't have a dog in this hunt. But as someone who grew up here, who used this church as a landmark on my daily travels to and from Starkville, and always appreciated the beautiful simplicity of the building I will feel it's loss. Though not as keenly as the members. The demolition started yesterday with the removal of the steeple and continued through today. Daddy called me this afternoon to let me know. It saddens my heart and I hope it saddens yours as well. I hope it makes you more aware of your surroundings. I hope it makes you more aware of the fleeting people and places in your lives. It has surely done that for me. And maybe that was the last gift of this humble, quiet building.
If you're interested in some more images of Pheba, see the links below. There are some that do believe in preservation as witnessed by the grant to save the Agricultural High School. I just wish that this courtesy had been extended to this building as well.