Landmark Church Moving Away From East Biloxi

"When I first drove up, I was reduced to tears," said Ron Edmonston. "It brings back a lot of memories".

It was not the kind of emotion, Edmonston wanted to feel.

"It's humbling," he said.

Edmonston lives in Baton Rouge now. But this was his church when he lived on the coast back in the early 80s.

"This was what I remember of the church, a small red brick building," Edmonston said as he walked the grounds.

All that remains of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer are the steel beams. Even the bell-tower, which survived Hurricane Camille, toppled under Katrina's fury.

"Our daughter was actually christened in the bell tower," Edmonston said.

But the landmark that's been an icon in east Biloxi for more than 150-years will not return to the same site. The congregation has agreed to move away from the beachfront.

"It was a unanimous decision," said Father Harold Roberts.

He says that decision was based on several factors -- skyrocketing insurance costs, changes in population, and the fear of losing another church to a future storm.

"It's difficult to continue to let go of the things that we've known and cherished," said Father Roberts.

The parishioners had one condition though. They wanted to keep the property. They'll use the beams as an outdoor chapel and restore the Hurricane Camille Memorial.

"It should be open, sacred space," said Father Roberts. "It shouldn't be just condos and so forth. It shouldn't just be a place for rich people. It should be a place for all people."

"I remember, every Christmas we sold Christmas trees here," recalled Ron Edmonston.

Just like Edmonston, for anybody who worshiped here, there will always be memories, even if the church is gone.

Edmonston said, "It's sad, but I understand that's part of moving forward."

Father Roberts doesn't know yet when the new church will be built. A team will come in to help the congregation come up with a vision, before the building begins.

He says De Miller Hall will be restored, and used for offices and receptions. And the land where the rectory once stood could be leased for commercial development.