If you’ve driven down Church Street toward Marietta Square recently, you may have noticed that First Baptist Church of Marietta has been hidden behind a wall of scaffolding.

The church, which has had a physical presence downtown since the late 19th century, is undergoing a $5.2 million renovation to waterproof three of its buildings and restore stained glass windows in the chapel and the sanctuary, as well as make some internal repairs, according to Don Dorsey, an architect and church member who serves as the liaison between the contractors and church leadership.

A $200,000 renovation of the church’s organ, located in the sanctuary, is also underway.

The church’s sanctuary and chapel front Church Street between Lemon and Dobbs streets. The sanctuary is closest to Lemon Street. The welcome center is behind the chapel, and all three buildings are connected.

The campus’ family life center, south of the intersection of Dobbs and Church streets, will not be included in the renovations.

Scaffolding will remain on the church’s campus as contractors with Marietta-based ADE Builders install new roofs and waterproof the exterior of the chapel, sanctuary and welcome center over the next 14 to 16 months, Dorsey said. Interior repairs of water damage from years of leaks, as well as bathroom renovations, will take place for two or three months after that, he said.

First Baptist Marietta’s chapel was constructed from 1892 to 1897, and the sanctuary was built in the early 1960s. The campus’s welcome center was constructed decades later.

Dorsey said the history of the campus, especially of the chapel, means renovations are tedious.

“It’s not just spraying some waterproofing on the exterior walls. They’re having to actually go in and remove the grout or the mortar around the perimeter of each and every marble stone — very, very tedious work,” he said. “Then they will be re-grouting and sealing the joints between each and every stone and then applying this topical waterproofing to the surface of all the stone and all the brick.”

He also said while some window repair and refurbishing will be minor, allowing the windows to stay in place, some will have to be removed and taken to a stained glass repair studio before being transported back and reinstalled. Many of those windows date back to the 1890s.

“We have a special stained glass studio with many, many years of experience that will be refurbishing the windows,” Dorsey said.

The stained glass windows will also be cleaned and have protective tempered glass placed over the top, he said.

There will be limited scaffolding or construction equipment inside the church during indoor repairs, Dorsey said, adding that lifts may be used to reach high points in the chapel or sanctuary ceilings.

Penny Morrison-Ross, wife of Senior Pastor Dr. Bill Ross, sits on the committee managing the church’s fundraising campaign, Grateful First: A Legacy of Generosity. Morrison-Ross said the campaign secured $4.2 million, raised or pledged, since it began in November last year.

She said the renovations are a permanent fix in place of the Band-Aids the church had been putting on leaks and other issues.

Morrison-Ross said, on top of the normal offerings and pledges to the campaign, many members of the congregation have chipped in in whatever way they can.

“We’ve had kids do lemonade stands and art sales. ... The senior adults are getting ready to do a big church yard sale or tag sale in the spring. Our youth have done Boston butt sales and low country boil dinners,” she said. “And we’ve had gifts (and) pledges anywhere from $100 to half a million dollars to get us to the $4.2 million. I’m very proud of the church that they are at this point just a year in.”

Others, like Dorsey, have donated their expertise. An artist and church member has also created prints of the historic chapel that are available for a $200 donation. One hundred of those prints are still available, Morrison-Ross said.

“If we had to put a price on (those) services ... we would be in a much bigger campaign,” she said.

She said the church is challenging the congregation to raise the final $1 million by New Year’s Day, but acknowledges fundraising could continue for up to another year. But, she said, so far, it looks like the congregation will save the church from having to take out any loans.

Morrison-Ross said in the future, the church will also seek to replace interior carpeting, paint interior walls and install new wallpaper, among other items. But, she said, “that will be another campaign.”

For more information or questions about the Grateful First fundraising campaign, contact Penny Morrison-Ross at morrisonrosspenny@gmail.com.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.


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