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Praying For A Miracle

Nona Sutton and the remaining members of First PresbyterianChurch in Brookhaven are holding out hope for a miracle as theyawait the fate of their church.

“We really don’t know what’ll happen,” said Sutton, who serves astreasurer and session member for the church. “We’re still prayingfor a miracle.”

The church held its last service at the building at the corner ofChickasaw and Jackson streets in April, Easter Sunday in fact,Sutton said. Due to dwindling membership and lack of funding,Sutton said, the church does not have sufficient money to maintainthe building.

“We have about 40 members now, but only about 10 active members,”Sutton said. “We just don’t have the money to continue.”

“We’re still a church,” she clarified. “This is just the building.We’re just so small in number now that we don’t have the funds tocontinue with the upkeep.”

Sutton said the church went up for sale about a month ago, and shehopes someone interested will turn up with the means to patch upthe roof of the sanctuary among other needed repairs. Leaks havecaused damage to the ceiling and the walls inside thesanctuary.

“I was just in tears when I drove by when the sign first went up,”she said. “It’s been hard. It’s been hard on all of us.”

Sutton explained the members have cut down to the bare minimum asfar as keeping the inside of the church maintained. She said theyhave three total air conditioning units, but have cut the use downto one unit so that the organ does not sustain any damage.

Most of the members’ belongings have been packed up. Sutton said amember has volunteered storage space at his home for the church’sproperty.

According to Sutton, the current downfall of the church began backin the 1970s. Back then, the church experienced a split into twoseparate churches: First Presbyterian Church, which stayed inplace, and the newly formed Faith Presbyterian Church.

She explained after that, the youth group at First was small anddid not experience much growth. The youth withered away from thechurch as members graduated from college and others moved on toother churches in the area that had more to offer their agegroup.

“After that, we didn’t have many members at all, and the ones wedid have were mostly elderly,” Sutton said.

The church was formed in 1857, and the present building was underconstruction by 1905, Sutton said. It was added to the NationalRegistry of Historic Places in 1999, included as part of theDowntown Brookhaven Historic District.

“There’s a lot of history here,” Sutton said. “I wish someone couldcome along and get excited about the building.”

Sutton said the Presbytery of Mississippi, based in Hattiesburg, isdue to visit the congregation soon to see how things are going andhow they are doing. However, she does not expect they can be ofmuch help to the remaining members struggling to survive as achurch.

“We have no plans to dissolve, but you never know what’s going tohappen,” she said.

As the members look forward – 2012 will be the 155th anniversary ofthe church as an organized group if they can survive – Suttonreiterated their idle state of affairs in the face ofuncertainty.

“We’re kind of just stuck right now,” she said. “All we can do istry to conserve what little money we do have and wait for anopportunity to build on that and start up again.”