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Mount Moriah dedicates new sanctuary

Mount Moriah choir sings during dedication service. Mount Moriah choir sings during dedication service.

EDNEYVILLE — The Rev. Bryan Melton walked onto the brand new stage of the brand new church and was for a moment at a loss for words.

He stood still and looked out at the sanctuary.
What he saw was a body filling every seat on every pew — the original pews down the center, saved from the old Mount Moriah Church on this same piece of ground, and the two wings of pews fanning out on either side, all new but exact replicas of the old.
What he saw was the old stained glass and the new balcony and the E-century audio-visual operation that would make Mount Moriah as modern as any suburban mega-church if it wanted to be. What he saw was the handsome and sturdy set of double doors made from the chestnut trusses of the old church. What he saw, what he really saw, what he saw that struck him dumb momentarily, was faces.
"When we were building this church," he began, his voice cracking ever so slightly, "I kept thinking that I saw the wow factor.
"When we put in the bell tower, I said that's the wow factor. When we put the windows in, I said that's the wow factor. When we put in the pews, I said that's the wow factor.
"Then when they put in toilets that actually flushed," he said, to appreciative and knowing laughter from the Mount Moriah faithful, "and I said, that's the wow factor."
He paused.
"Beloved," he said, "I'm looking at the wow factor."
"Welcome to the new home of Mount Moriah Baptist Church," he said. "It's been a long time coming."
So began the dedication service of Mount Moriah's newest church house, a modern testament to the church's long walk in faith and its stalwart presence beneath the bosom of a Blue Ridge mountain. It dates its beginning to 1839. Church members built the new church on the site of the old church, the one members erected in the 1880s.


Volunteers pitch in
Preacher Melton did not say so on Sunday but sitting in a pew at Mount Moriah, one could not help but appreciate that the new church, dedicated May 20, 2012, came out of the ground a lot like the old church more than 120 years before: churchmen and churchwomen having the dream, plunking down the money in the collection plate, and doing a lot of the work. Yes, there were contractors, and the church spent plenty of money paying contractors to pour the footings, lay the block, course the brick, hammer the boards, raise the steeple, finish the woodwork, carpet the floor, hang the doors and install in the antique stained glass.
The first pledge of $20,000 marked a modest start. "Since then this little body of believers has raised over a million dollars and that's incredible," he said.
Melton recounted some of the special touches. The stained glass was original, except for the center medallions, which needed to be replaced. The original church bell was hung in the belltower, and parishioners heard it as the service ended. The front door to the church has a chestnut veneer from the church trusses, and the interior doors are all-chestnut, also salvaged and recycled. Who says the Baptist aren't green?
The original stained-glass transom, fashioned by a company from Eastern North Carolina, was the largest that the company ever made, Melton said. It hangs above the front doors, proudly declaring the church's 1839 founding.
"Everybody go to the bathroom before you leave just to see the beautiful tile," he said, to laughter again. Wilsonart donated the stalls.

Thanking the builders
Melton ran down a long list of contractors and friends of the churches, who gave supplies, sold them at a deep discount or went the extra mile to make sure Mount Moriah came out as everyone hoped and prayed it would.
He called up Zack Gordon, the superintendent for Carolina Specialties, the general contractor.
"As we've gotten ready for this day, I've had so many people tell me, 'I know this isn't the old building but it still feels like Mount Moriah,'" he said. "The interior committee is responsible for that." The chair of that was Donna Donaldson, who did it, Melton added, while planning a daughter's wedding and a son's high graduation.
But he saved his biggest praise for two key building committee members who guided the work. He came to rely on building committee chairman Marvin Peterson. "I wouldn't do the building with anybody but you," he said. "You quit, I quit."
Nor could he could have done it without Bill Barnwell, the longtime schools construction supervisor who served a busman's retirement managing the Mount Moriah project.

Dedicated to God
A 20-minute video made by Trevor Lance and remarks by past ministers of Mount Moriah pushed the time until noon before Preacher Melton had even gotten to his sermon. He was tempted but resisted. If parishioners wanted to hear his sermon, they could come to his house that afternoon and he's preach it for them. Meantime, waiting in the fellowship, was a barbecue and hamburger feast to celebrate the new building.
"Why would we dedicate anything to God," Melton said, after the church members had done just that. "Because when we dedicate something to God he takes it and makes it the very best it can be, did you hear me? He makes it the very best it can be."
"Doesn't it make sense," he asked, "that as we dedicate this building we dedicate ourselves to him. Beloved, I challenge you to do that today."
A benediction and blessing followed and the Mount Moriah faithful filed out into a perfect spring Sunday afternoon. The church building and the steps and the pavement and the grass were all new. But the good thing was, whatever makes Mount Moriah Mount Moriah was the same as it had always been.