At Shiloh Baptist Church, it's not a renovation. It's a revitalization. There can be a slight difference, but in this case, there's a big one.
"I think it's the first step of revitalizing this community," said Kris Erskine, Shiloh's pastor. "North Bryan and this African American community, I believe, has kind of been written off, and a lot of things are being done in other areas, but nothing really substantial is being done here. And we thought this would be the first project."
For those who had seen the church before, they saw it again for the first time Sunday. Originally, the plan was to re-carpet the place and add some new pews. But $150,000 later, the inside of the building was gutted and rebuilt. New plumbing, new sound system and, of course, new carpet and pews. The outside of the building has been fixed up, too. A new paint job for the exterior, and a redone steeple. The funding came from donations, a capital campaign, and a lot of help from Wells Fargo.
"Shiloh Baptist has a long and rich history in this community," said Mervin Peters of Wells Fargo. "I believe that it is the oldest African American church in the county. They've had great leadership and they've got great congregations, and they do a lot of good things."
And the city officials recognize Shiloh's importance as well. "To see the changes being made to this facility, to this edifice, really and truly does my heart good," said Bryan Mayor Pro Tem Paul Madison. "It's good to see people coming together to worship."
The summer, Shiloh will mark 145 years as a unifier in Bryan's African American community. Their goal now is still the same: to bring people together, to lift them up. Take it from someone who's been at Shiloh even before they built their new old building.
"Technology brings about change," said Lorine Ochletree, who was the church clerk back in 1949 when Shiloh moved into its current building. "He doesn't mean for us to stand still. We've got to move on. We realize that, too. But I realize this, too. I've always said this. Some things don't change. Kindness, goodness and mercies and thankfulness -- it doesn't change."
"The atmosphere and the community has been lifted," said Erskine. "The morale of our church has gone to a whole other level. So I would call it a renovation as far as the building, but as far as the people, it's revitalized it."
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