Walt's Look Around: Community rebuilds Rodney church
Rodney is about half way between Natchez and Vicksburg and was a river port until the Mississippi River moved west over a century ago and left the town behind. But since there are no levees between Rodney and the River, the lower part of the town had extensive flooding earlier this year when the Mississippi River reached record heights.
We did a story about what the river had done to one of the historic churches in Rodney, the Baptist Church, and Charles Roberts of Hazlehurst saw the story and started rounding up workers, including a bunch of people from his church, First Baptist of Hazlehurst. And folks from Port Gibson and Natchez have been up to help, as well as Scott Griffin, who is pastor of Amity Baptist Church at Mantee in Webster County. Scott also does architectural restoration and says the 160 or so year-old building couldn't have waited much longer if it was going to be brought back to life.
Scott Griffin: Yea. Structurally the building can be salvaged but it is in a critical state. The foundation needs to be leveled. We've got a wall that's buckling in this church. It is very critical.
Walt: Obviously, the church building is old and has a certain amount of character. But a couple of questions arise. For one, why save a building out on the other side of nowhere?
Scott Griffin: We're very, very fortunate in Mississippi that we have some of the greatest historical landmarks in America. We get a lot of tourism in Mississippi because of some of the past preservation work that we've done. Rodney is no exception to this rule. If we invest our effort in this then hopefully it's going to be a draw to people outside the state and also a destination for people in the state as well.
Walt: The other question, where's the money coming from to do this restoration? Well, there are already two or three Rodney-type foundations of one sort or another. Plans are for all of them to join forces to not only restore the Baptist Church, but the Presbyterian Church with the cannon ball lodged in the front from where it was shelled in the Civil war. And even the old Masonic Lodge and make Rodney a destination again.
Scott Griffin: We're hoping to plan a Rodney Day in September of 2013 which will mark the 150th anniversary of the shelling of Rodney.
Walt: Get enough people involved in workdays like this one who'd like to see the past, not lost, but revived, and it will happen.
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