Members of the First Baptist Church in Wetumpka have been looking at the damage to one of its buildings for over a year but that building finally came down over the weekend.
The approximately 170-year-old sanctuary took enough damage from the 2019 EF-2 tornado for the congregation to vote on tearing down what was left of the building for good.
“It wasn’t necessarily the structure as far as we know,” FBC pastor James Troglen said. “It was not about to fall in on itself at least. It was a decision made by the church that they did not want to invest that much money in that building to fix it.”
The congregation had a committee look into all of the changes that were needed and it got estimates from $700,000 to nearly $900,000 of needed repairs before the building could be repurposed. The recommendation of tearing down the building was made in March and Troglen said about 75% of the members voted in favor of tearing it down. But that did not make the decision any easier.
“No one wanted to see that building come down,” Troglen said. “I think it bothered everybody. Everybody who was a member there and saw it come down, it was tough. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made and I think the team made the best possible decision in this moment.”
The chapel building was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1977. It was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Troglen said emotions had been running high within the congregation over the past few months which was to be expected after making a major decision. After the final decision was made, he said more people came forward against tearing down the building but the church wanted to stick with the original vote from the other members.
“There are people who are upset with it and we understand that,” Troglen said. “We wish there was something we could do. I understand those who are a part of the church because this was hard. The tornado did this. There’s a profound sense of sadness among all of our people. Even the people who voted to remove the structure had a hard time with it.”
As for a possible replacement for the now vacant lot, Troglen said there are no set plans in place yet but the church already has a committee discussing ideas for the future.
“Time will only tell,” Troglen said. “Everyone in the church has ideas that we would like to see. There are all sorts of things that go through there. This is still a strong church. God’s hand is still at work here.”