Granville Centre church has new home in Louisiana

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Abita Springs congregation gets early Christmas present - a 'new' church

The Rev. Jerel Keene of the Louisiana Church of Abita Springs stands next to the timbers that will eventually become his congregation's new place of worship.

EDITOR’S Note: The following story appeared in The Times-Picayune of Louisiana on December 23, 2013 and is published by The Spectator with permission.

By Kim Chatelain

The Times-Picayune

For the Louisiana Church of Abita Springs, a Christmas present rolled into town last week on a flatbed trailer – albeit, in pieces. Massive, ageless beams, clapboard walls, stained glass windows and hand-crafted wood artifacts were unloaded onto an empty lot on Main Street – fragments of what will rise to become a house of worship for the Baptist congregation and one of the oldest churches on the north shore.

What was once the All Saints Anglican Church in Granville Centre, Nova Scotia, where it was built 200 years ago, was disassembled board-by-board in 2009 after the Abita Springs church purchased the structure. It was stored in Canada for nearly four years before being trucked 2,200 miles to the small western St. Tammany Parish town last Wednesday (Dec. 18) one week before Christmas.

The congregation’s goal is to begin the reassembly process in February and hold the first service on Easter – Resurrection Sunday, the Rev. Jerel Keene said.

The Rev. Jerel Keene of the Louisiana Church of Abita Springs discusses the rebuilding of a 200-plus-year-old church that was taken apart in Nova Scotia, trucked to Abita Springs, and will be rebuilt for the church's congregation in time for Easter services in 2014.

“The people of this town will have a sanctuary on Main Street to hear the Gospel,” said Keene, the church's pastor. “It’s going to be amazing.”

The congregation still has to acquire several permits from the town government to reassemble the church at the corner of Main Street and Louisiana 435, directly across the street from the post office. But Keene said town leaders have been generally supportive of the project and he sees no insurmountable hurdles.

 

Was All Saints Anglican

The church was the All Saints Anglican Church in Nova Scotia before deconstruction. The church was carefully taken apart, stored for several years, and recently trucked to Abita Springs, where another church congregation will put it back together in time for Easter, 2014, services.

 

When the church opens its antique doors, it will be the culmination of a journey that began years ago when Keene decided the congregation needed a new church. The church currently holds its services in a children’s day car center it operates adjacent to the lot on which the church will be reconstructed.

Plans were drawn for a new church, but building a modern sanctuary from the ground up was cost prohibitive for the relatively small congregation of around 150 people.

 

Prayed On The Issue

Keene said he prayed on the issue for quite some time before coming upon a vision of an old white church.

Searching online, Keene ran across a quaint, white church that was being decommissioned in Granville Centre, a rural community along the Annapolis River in western Nova Scotia. He traveled to Canada to visit the church and found it to be even more impressive than the photos suggested. The church’s cornerstone is inscribed with 1814, but Keene believes its exposed beams were actually formed in the 1700s.

Keene made contact with TimberhArt Woodworks in Port Williams, Nova Scotia, which had been hired to find a buyer willing to move the old church to another location. After discussing the idea of relocating the church to Abita Springs with his congregation, the Baptist minister plowed forward with his vision and began raising the hundreds of thousands of dollars he expected the effort to cost.

The woodworks outfit, headed by Dan Reagan, who specializes in timber framing and post and beam construction, carefully took the church apart and marked its pieces so that it could be more easily reassembled. It has been in storage in Nova Scotia while the Abita Springs congregation raised the money and made other preparations to bring the church to its new home.

 

Reconstruction

Reagan will be heavily involved in the project to resurrect the 56-by-30 foot structure. Local building contractor Jerry Glover and Piazza Architecture Planning of Mandeville will also take part in the effort, Keene said.

Once rebuilt, Keene said the church will seat about 150 and should be sturdy, with its massive 12-inch beams from a bygone era providing uncanny stability. “It’s withstood many hurricanes where it came from,” he said.

Members of the Baptist congregation are anxious to reassemble the building, which was unloaded from the flatbed after a three-day, 2,200-mile trip from icy Canada.

“It’s a piece of history,” said Travis Charlie, the congregation’s youth and children’s minister. “We’re putting up a piece of history in Abita Springs.”

Kim Chatelain is a reporter, covering government and politics in St. Tammany Parish for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. The New Orleans native joined The Times-Picayune news staff in 1979. He can be reached at kchatelain@nola.com or at 985.898.4832.

 

Web Link: http://www.nola.com/religion/index.ssf/2013/12/christmas_present_arrives_earl.html

Also see Tim Wilson video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lob637KhJo#t=57

Organizations: Granville Centre, Louisiana Church of Abita Springs, All Saints Anglican Church The Spectator The Times Abita Springs church

Geographic location: Abita Springs, Nova Scotia, Louisiana Canada All Saints Annapolis River Port Williams New Orleans

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Recent comments

  • Debbie McGrath
    January 09, 2014 - 12:56

    My family has a very special connection with your "new" church. My Mom was born (1932), and raised in the community of Granville Centre just a few houses away from the (then), All Saints Anglican Church. She attended services there, was baptized there and married there in later years (1954). She and our Dad were also on site at the time the church was being deconstructed. At the time of the deconstruction, it was casually mentioned by one of them, that maybe they should go to Louisiana for their 60th Wedding Anniversary. Well, here we are in 2014, with your new church being opened for the Easter Week-end Services. That just happens to be the week-end of our parents 60th Wedding Anniversary on April 19th. Would you, the pastor, and your congregation be open to the idea of having our parents on site for the special occasion? Would love to hear from someone, either way, please. My email is: daryl.mcgrath@ns.sympatico.ca Sincerely, Debbie McGrath PS Congrats on such an undertaking. Our family has been watching the project since it's beginning. Thanks so much!

  • Wanda Bullerwell
    January 01, 2014 - 08:49

    My parents were married in that church almost 6o years ago and all five of their children attended there, sometimes travelling the short distance on horseback. Before the church was torn down, the local paper took a picture of my parents standing in the doorway. The church holds many special memories for the family. We are happy to hear that it has made its journey to the new location and will soon we back in service.