GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The new First Presbyterian Church of Gulfport still has some work to be done on the outside. Soon lush green landscapes will surround the new brick structure. Inside, though, is a brand new sanctuary waiting to welcome members home.
"I can't believe it," longtime member and Music Director Tammy Turnage said. "I'm still kind of numb to the fact that we are actually moving in this Sunday and we are going to worship here this Sunday."
It's been a long journey for church members, many of whom also lost their own homes to Katrina.
"We would have liked to have been in the building years ago," explained Senior Pastor Guy Richard. "But our first job we felt important, was to take care of our church members who lost everything."
The church has used Bayou View Elementary's gym as a makeshift sanctuary for the past four years. Now, members have everything they need under one roof.
"We have offices, we have Sunday school rooms, nursery space," Richard said. "We have a gymnasium that we're building behind this building."
In fact, the new facility has more to offer than any of the church's previous three homes through the last century, which were all in downtown Gulfport. A familiar piece from the last church still sits at the corner of Highway 90 and 24th Avenue. The steeple serves as a reminder of what was once there, but that may soon move north, as well.
"We'd like to incorporate it into the building on the property here as a reminder, a tie to our past, a tie to where we've been and what we hope to do in the future," Richard explained.
For now, Turnage said First Presbyterian is celebrating a fresh start, the first step for the next hundred years.
"Oh, it's just the biggest blessing for us to have a building to worship in again and just to have the facility to do the ministries that we want to do in the church."
The first service in the new church will be Sunday, November 22nd at 11am. It wasn't planned, but that's exactly 45 years to the day after the first service was held in the former church on Highway 90 in Gulfport. There will be a dedication ceremony January 17th.