The 103-year-old Friendship Missionary Baptist Church — Parks is the church’s oldest member — was damaged in the Jan. 30 tornado, which moved the structure off its foundation.
“The whole church shifted a little bit,” Deacon Earl Wilkey Jr. said of the church located at the corner of Poplar Springs Road and Martin Luther King Drive in Adairsville. “It’s unsafe to be in here.”
On Thursday, Wilkey and his wife, Leola, were among those gathered as crews pulled heavy equipment onto the yard and began demolishing the 2,400-square-foot tabernacle.
Standing inside the vestibule, Wilkey points out the damage done in the storm, where the walls moved away from the ceiling, debris scattered about and, on the exterior, siding ripped off by the tornado. Although it rained for hours following the twister, Wilkey said the building’s contents were salvaged.
“Only thing to see about now, when he first came, the inspector … we said there wasn’t no damage to the furniture and stuff, the contents, but a few days later, I was down here and got to looking at the benches and we think they got a little moisture in them,” he said.
The church received a payout from the insurance company, but the sum may not be large enough to replace the century-old house of worship.
Wilkey said the congregation is looking to rebuild, with plans calling for the addition of a porch, larger vestibule and baptism pool. The detached fellowship hall also was torn down Thursday and will be included in the new church.
“I told my wife the [blueprint] we are looking at is 43 [feet wide] and this is 40. This is 60 [feet] long,” Wilkey said. “We are looking at 43 by 109, and that will be including the [fellowship hall].”
Adairsville Church of God Pastor Ken Coomer, whose church has been at the forefront of recovery efforts, said that volunteers will begin the process of constructing the new Friendship Missionary Baptist Church the week of March 13.
“March 13 through the 18th is the week we have designated that we have churches coming in and they are going to rebuild this church,” Coomer said. “One of the main churches that’s involved is a church called The Torch, which is from Habersham County. They called and said, ‘We want to do a project,’ so this is going to be their project.”
Under the leadership of Pastor Terry Hambrick, Wilkey, who joined in 1986, said the church has about 15 active members, roughly half the number on the rolls.
Although the deacon said it appeared there was no damage to contents, the church will hold off on disposing of items until the church is rebuilt and funding issues have been addressed.
“We can’t just throw things away. We got to wait and see,” he said. “It’s going to be nice if we can get new pews, but I’m not focusing so much on that. … We may have to refurbish them and put them back for the time being.”
Wilkey attended a meeting Tuesday to address contractor scam concerns.
“I went to that scam meeting. The contractor is going to have to make sure his plumbers, his electricians and everybody is legit,” he said, adding the demolition and removal costs should be covered by the insurance policy.
Those interested in donating to the church’s building fund may mail contributions to United Community Bank, ATTN Glenda Duvall, P.O. Box 405, Adairsville, GA 30103, or in person at United Community Bank. All checks should be designated for the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church building fund.
Volunteers also may take part in the rebuilding March 13-18. Contact Coomer at the Adairsville Church of God, 297 Old Dixie Highway in Adairsville, or 770-773-3264, for more information.
“This is the oldest continuing African-American congregation in our town, and so the churches have decided this is going to be one of their projects,” Coomer said. “We are going to make sure that, when it’s all said and done, this congregation continues.”