Work to restore Historic First Baptist Church from damage suffered in the December 2015 flood is nearing completion.
After a full year of holding church services in other church buildings, the Rev. James Perkins, pastor, plans to hold service in his own sanctuary Sunday, Dec. 18 — the Sunday before Christmas.
The historic building was inundated with 3 feet of water during the flood, which destroyed furniture, fixtures, furnaces and drywall.
Over the past year, Perkins stood at the pulpit at Pacific Temple C.O.G.I.C.; Mount Calvary, Robertsville; Rose Hill, Villa Ridge; Robertsville Temple; Calvary Pentecostal, Villa Ridge; and Shiloh Baptist, Robertsville.
“We made so many friends,” Perkins said. “We racked up debts we can never repay.”
As Perkins faced the yearlong search for material to rebuild the damaged building, he kept thinking of the building of the first house of God.
“I’ve been thinking of when Solomon built the first temple,” he said.
The displaced pastor said he reread 2 Chronicles 2 and Solomon’s struggle for the task of building the great temple. He knew that he could not do it alone and reached out for others to help.
Perkins knew he had a man in his own church who knows how to do many things in construction.
“I started with Deacon Loyd Pruitt,” he said. “He knows how to do many things.”
The two men then reached out to the community for materials to rebuild.
Jim Doering, Pacific, who volunteered to oversee the repair of the church following the 2008 flood, returned to spend hours tearing out damaged materials and replacing the damaged drywall.
Bob Masson donated the paint for the sanctuary, which Pruitt applied.
Gildehaus Heating and Cooling donated parts to repair the two furnaces and Joe Cooper, Jennings, provided the labor to make the repairs.
First Christian Church, Pacific, donated the pews.
“We are almost there,” Perkins said.
The only remaining work is the need for insulation in the service building to prevent water pipes from freezing.
“We can’t turn on the water for church services until the insulation is in,” Perkins said. “But our hearts tell us we will be ready for the Dec. 18 service. We hope the community will come and help us rejoice.”
Perkins has been pastor at Historic First Baptist since 2004, when he was asked by the Glass family to reopen the old church, which had been closed for 12 years.
Two members of the Glass family had pastored here — Bro. Jimmy Glass and Bro. Dale Glass.
Other former pastors include the Rev. Ewing, the Rev. Lane, the Rev. Bogan, the Rev. Chapell, the Rev. Edwards and the Rev. Mayweather.
Considered by many local residents to be a cultural treasure, Historic First Baptist is associated with generations of the Adams, Brooks, Cannon, Dudley, Glass, Mason and White families.
King Edward Adams, a former slave who would raise 15 children in Pacific following the Emancipation Proclamation, deeded the property for the church in 1874. Adams, his son Jesse and grandson Udell would continue to support the church for the next 100 years.
“We’ve been blessed to be part of this history,” Perkins said.