ACWORTH — After months of hard work and a combined effort from the city, its residents, parishioners and local historians, Acworth Christian Church has been restored to its former glory.
“It was definitely a community effort,” said Betsy Brown, vice president of the Save Acworth History Foundation, and a former church member who was baptized and married there. “Definitely.”
The historic church building at 4476 Northside Drive, constructed in 1901, had fallen into disrepair. Last year, the city and community decided it was time to do something about it. Its last renovation was in the 1980s, and its age was, again, beginning to show.
“We look at each other and sometimes we laugh and sometimes we’re just amazed that every stumbling block that we’ve had that seemed insurmountable, somehow got fixed,” Brown said as she sat in a church pew with foundation president Mack Turner and Acworth Alderman Tim Richardson.
Brown, Turner and Richardson served on the five-member restoration committee that oversaw the project. The other two members were from the church.
The building that stands just across the railroad tracks from downtown Acworth isn’t the original building — it replaced an older church building, which burned in the late 1800s.
The existing building holds historic significance for the Acworth community, church members or not, said Richardson. And that’s evident in the amount of help the church received in the restoration, Turner said.
Around a year ago, the church had a serious roof leak fixed. Until then, church members had been worshiping around large rubber tubs that caught water pouring in from the leaking ceiling and bell tower, Brown said.
That repair was the catalyst for the full restoration project, work on which began in October, according to Turner and Brown. They said touch-up work, such as vacuuming and hanging signs, was still happening when the MDJ visited on Wednesday.
Restoration work included replacement of rotted wood and glass on some of the church’s stained glass windows, installing a new roof, replacing stucco, new insulation and reworking the interior layout to include a center aisle.
Brown also suggested the bell tower replace its shutters, which had been missing from the structure before the restoration project.
Church members, as well as local business owners and residents, some of whom Turner said “probably have never even been in this church,” donated money and labor to help the project along. Cash and in-kind donations totaled around $44,000, and the rest of the restoration’s $250,000 price tag came from the sale of a parsonage belonging to the church, Richardson said.
When church leaders were thinking of selling the parsonage to fund the restorations, they believed the building would bring around $90,000, the alderman said. Instead, a real estate agent was brought in to help, and the place sold for upwards of $200,000.
One of the largest challenges in the church restoration was the work needed on the windows, Brown said. The wood supporting the colorful stained glass was rotting and “almost unusable,” she said. And when the restoration group approached a contractor to get a quote on the work needed just on those windows, Brown said they were quoted $26,000.
That’s until the group looked locally for replacement glass and recruited Mike Minnick, of A1 Construction, who they said must have donated some of his construction work, given the much cheaper price he quoted.
“They turned out beautifully,” Brown said, adding that the windows were dedicated with small plaques beneath to donors who sponsored their restoration. Plaques near the entrance to the church also recognize certain donors.
Another obstacle came when, about halfway through the work, a portion of the congregation, some of whom were responsible for interior work, fell ill with COVID-19. But, she said, the History Foundation helped to pick up the slack.
Throughout the work, services never stopped, according to Brown, Turner and Richardson. But, they added, even as non-members of the church, they’re all excited to present the finished result to the congregation — especially given how much of a community effort the work was.