Demolition completed on St. Paul landmark church
Demolition began Friday on the Bridge City landmark Saint Paul United Methodist Church at 120 Bland in Bridge City. The final phase of demolition brought the massive A-Frame structure down amid a cloud of dust and debris Saturday afternoon.
The demolition will make room for the future Walgreens that will be built on the location that served the local congregation for 63 years.
Members of the church gathered to watch demolition on Saturday. Ironically, the congregation was meeting in the Family Life Center at the same time, planning for the new year.
One of those watching was longtime member, J. V. Chauvin. "I helped put some of the floor in," said Chauvin. He and his wife joined St. Paul in 1957. "I don’t have any feelings about it.," Chauvin said about the sanctuary coming down. " I’m sorry they can’t save some of that (building materials)."
Bonnie Short said that she kept one of the short pews to make crosses for her daughters because the wanted something from the old church.
The St. Paul United Methodist Church’s congregation decommissioned their 25,000 square-foot sanctuary building in a special service on Sunday, Jan. 6.
The 46 year old structure served as their place of worship until Hurricane Rita rendered it unusable in 2005. The congregation then faced the unexpected prospect of selling the property and moving west. The members voted to prepare for the future and move to 1155 West Roundbunch Road, where they plan to build a new church.
"This building has history and it was not an easy decision to make," said The Rev. David Green, pastor of the church. "None of us could have conceived of this move two years ago, but we feel that God is directing us to a new place.” Since Hurricane Rita damaged the main sanctuary building on Bland, they have had to meet in the Family Worship Center because the sanctuary was not usable for services.
"None of this has been easy on our congregation, but now, we are very hopeful for the future," Green said. The church will continue to meet in the Family Worship Center on Bland until September. After that time, they are unsure where their worship services will be held, but they are looking into several options.
The congregation began in 1944 and is more than half a century old. Members started worshipping in a tent with folding chairs and gas lanterns. Then they built a little white church with a steeple. Later, in 1961, the modern A-frame church building currently on the corner of Texas Avenue and Roundbunch was built to house the burgeoning membership.
In 1978, a bell tower was built on the corner of Bland and Roundbunch to house the "old church bell." Saving a portion of the old church is important to the parishioners. "We are saving the bell from this church and will display it as a reminder for our church and its history," said Green.
St. Paul’s current church will be torn down and a Walgreen’s will be built in its place. "The sale is closed with Walgreen’s for the two acre property on the corner. “All the papers are signed and the payment was received," Green said.
The new location is on a 10-acre parcel of land. Green said since the decision was made to sell the property and build a new church, the congregation of St. Paul is already seeing new growth.
"We’re going to build on five acres at the front of the land and leave the other five for future growth,” said Green. They hope to add new programs, new technology, and even a system for the hearing impaired.
The new, 29,000 square-foot sanctuary will be built first, with construction expected to begin in January. Green said he expects the building project will be completed within 12 to 16 months.
Plans call for a modern-style, up-to-date church featuring a sanctuary with a covered drop off area for people to use during rain. Also, the building will include an office wing; a family activity center, a large youth center for ages six to 12, complete with electronic games, computers; and a center geared for younger children in grades kindergarten to fifth. A nursery will also be on site for toddlers and infants. There will also be a larger parking area than at the current location.
"We want our new church to be set up in a way that reaches out and serves the community and we plan to continue to be a strong, spiritual presence," Green said.
The journey to our new church "has been a long and winding road." said Green.
Green has been the pastor at St. Paul’s since June 2002.