Landmark Gulfport Church Comes Down After 91 Years

It's a place where several generations of families have gone to worship and to pray. Now the members of First Baptist Church in Gulfport are saying goodbye to the downtown church. Wednesday, crews began demolishing the 91-year-old church.

Katrina destroyed First Baptist Church's sanctuary as well as several adjacent buildings. Although the church has been the waterfront since 1915, the congregation decided not to rebuild there.

Pastor Chuck Register says seeing the church torn down is mixture of pain for what's been lost and anticipation for the what's to come.

"A lot of memories. A lot of emotional struggles in watching the building come down," Rev. Register said.

It's in these painful moments Reverend Chuck Register is reminded of how the congregation of First Baptist Church Gulfport must continue to count its blessings.

"We've been focused really on two things, not poor us what the storm did to First Baptist Church, but how God is blessing us in the midst of this challenge and the way he's preparing us for the next 100 years of ministry in this community of Gulfport."

For nearly 100 years, First Baptist has been a symbol of faith along the Gulfport waterfront. Hurricane Katrina's destructive path changed everything.

"We'll always cherish the memories that we have here - wonderful wedding celebrations, the baptism of children as they come to know Christ as their savior and also very meaningful moments of funeral services where families have said goodbye to a mother or father or a child. Those will always be in our heart," Rev. Register said.

But there is much to lift the spirits of church members by focusing on the future. This summer, children are attending vacation bible school in a building the church is renting.

"It's great to see the future of our church just in children doing bible school. It's on a much smaller scale because we don't have a large facility like we used to. It does ease the pain. It is great to see them learning and having a great time. But they're also learning about Jesus and learning about the importance of faith in our church family," church member Delana Varner said.

The church has put the three acres of waterfront property on the market. The pastor says it has not been sold. The new First Baptist Church of Gulfport will be built on 34 acres on Highway 605.

The congregation is currently holding Sunday services at Gulfport High School's Auditorium beginning at 10am.