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The Walls of First Baptist Church of Lynn Haven come tumbling down

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 8:42 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) -

First Baptist Church Lynn Haven was established in 1912. The first sanctuary was completed in 1913, the second was built in 1953. That particular sanctuary was one of the victims of Hurricane Michael. Now almost two years later the congregation said a bittersweet goodbye to the building that holds so many memories.

It may not have been the original sanctuary for First Baptist Church of Lynn Haven but if the walls could talk, there would be some amazing stories to tell.

“A lot of our people were baptized in that church, married in that church and had a lot of special memories,” said Pastor Tom Daniel.

Now memories are pretty much all that's left.

The old church, turned fellowship hall, was part of the devastation Hurricane Micheal left behind along with the current sanctuary. That left the congregation with no place to worship.

And nearly two years after the storm the congregation is still homeless.

“We met for about a year over at Lynn Haven Elementary School,” said Daniel. “But then after the pandemic and the requirements the county has to sanitize, we’re right now just on live stream we’re not meeting in person right now.”

But what they are doing is looking to the future by getting rid of things past.

"These buildings were in such bad shape they had to be torn down," said Daniel. "We had asbestos. It took a while to get the insurance settlement of course and then to get the asbestos remediated and then just to demolish them. Now we're waiting for it to be hauled off."

Still, it wasn’t easy to see history being reduced to a pile of rubble.

“We’ve got mixed emotions,” said Daniel. “On the one hand, it was kind of an iconic building in the community with so much history and so much love from our people. But then on the other hand we see it as an opportunity to rebuild for future generations.”

The struggles since Hurricane Michael seem to have made them stronger.

“To think about the fact that we’ve been kind of homeless for almost two years you’d think we’d probably lose a lot of people,” said Daniel. “But everybody has been faithful. we haven’t lost any membership, as a matter of fact, we’ve grown some.”

And growing is exactly what they plan to keep doing.

“We’re just praising the Lord that he’s brought us through this far and we look forward to what he’s going to do,” said Daniel. “We’ll definitely be stronger because of what we’ve been through and be more able to serve the Lord more effectively.”

Even if it means saying goodbye to a familiar friend.

"I think the future looks bright for us. When we get through we're gonna have totally new facilities," said Daniel. "As you know Lynn Haven is growing so we're looking forward to the church growing and developing and reaching even more people for Christ."

The architect is in the process of developing plans for the space. The congregation is hoping to be back in all of its facilities within a year.

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