It’s bittersweet to watch their church get torn down, but the congregants of Hodges Presbyterian Church said there was hope Tuesday morning in seeing the charred, blackened walls knocked to the ground.
The church burned after lightning struck near the steeple in August, and the flames tore through much of the sanctuary building. Dating back to 1899, the historic church was integral in so many locals’ lives, but its members ensured that when the building was burned the spirit of their church lived on beyond its walls.
They continued to meet in the classroom building beside the church, among other places, and stayed strong in their faith that one day they will worship again at that site.
On Tuesday, they took the next major step toward seeing that day. A construction crew, overseen by Project Manager Tim Bartels of GC3 Builders, was on site at 4413 Main St., Hodges to begin clearing the damaged building.
Bartels said they plan to have the building torn down, site cleaned up and debris hauled away by May 8, before installing the new footings and framing. Bartels, who has worked with GC3 for three years, said the company works mainly on churches and is known for this kind of project.
“You know it’s got to go, but still, those were the doors I first walked in through,” church Clerk of Session Maye Haddon said.
But where once she fought back tears for what was lost, Haddon was speaking excitedly about the future and the ways the congregation had transformed their loss into something beautiful. She was overjoyed that they managed to save nearly all of the stained glass from the church, and what pieces broke are being used to make stained glass angels for members of the church.
“The glass itself I’ve always loved,” said Allison Paris, Haddon’s daughter.
Paris said she wanted people to have a memento of the old building, so she gathered what shards of the glass she could and a friend is helping make angel ornaments from the broken pieces using wire to help frame the glass. Paris also said she recovered some of the heavy nails used in the building’s construction, and have used them to make crosses.
Minister Hampton Hunter was pleasantly surprised about the things that survived the flames and was more than ready to see the demolition happen in order to pave the way for new construction.
“I’m glad to see the ugliness of this all removed,” he said. “Nothing can go up until this first comes down.”
As part of the agreement with GC3, the construction of the new sanctuary will be of like-kind quality — Bartels is working with samples of the old church building to find materials that are close matches to what was there before.
Hunter and some of his fellow church members watched on as the excavator dug its metal thumb into the brittle, burned wood and knocked walls to the ground. Destruction wasn’t what was on Hunter’s mind, though. He said he’s looking toward the future.