Mt. Pleasant seeks donations from community to rebuild church
There is no looming deadline around the corner for the parishioners of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Gainesville to raise the estimated $1 million it will take to restore and improve their burnt out church property stemming from an August inferno.
However, the church is still a long ways off from securing the remaining $750,000 it will take to move back in to their 136-year-old structure.
Now, the church trustees and pastor are reaching out beyond their own parish for help as the 135 church members themselves simply can't afford to foot the bill through tithing and other weekly donations.
"We're going to be dependent on the community to help us rebuild," said church trustee vice-chairwoman and treasurer Janet Robinson.
On March 16, she sat down at a table with the Rev. George Carlisle and Henry Peterson, the chairman of trustee ministries responsible for legal and financial issues with the church, to discuss the state of Mount Pleasant and what it will take to recover from what fire investigators deemed was an intentional fire set to their church that gutted the building.
Police arrested Maurice Thompson Michaely of Haymarket on Nov. 29 and charged him with arson, injuring church property and unlawful entry stemming from the Aug. 10 fire.
During a preliminary hearing earlier this month, a grand jury determined that prosecutors presented enough evidence hold a jury trial, set to take place June 4 and 5.
Before the trial, the church is planning multiple fundraisers.
One is being held by the Five Below retail store in Gainesville from March 29 through April 1, where 10 percent of purchases from church members and shoppers bringing an invitation will go to the building fund.
Another one is a yard sale set for April 6 at the Northern Virginia Baptist Center's Ross-Penn Memorial Building in Gainesville that is also the open to the public, where dinners and various items are to be put up for sale.
Billed the "Fish, Chicken, Ribs, Pig's Feet Dinners," the event is being sponsored by the Trustee Ministry for the church's building fund.
After that, a door-to-door campaign through Hopewell's Landing and Lake Manassas are being planned for the late spring or early summer to ask residents for donations.
The church officials explained that they're requesting outside help because money raised through donations at weekly masses mostly goes to paying reoccurring expenses, including a $2,500 monthly rent for the Memorial Building, where Sunday services are held in the interim.
At the Mount Pleasant site off of U.S. 29, the trustees also still pay for electricity in order to light the property and they pay for pest control too.
So far, the church is coming out "just a little bit ahead" at the end of each month when it comes to cash flow after paying its bills, said Carlisle.
Parishioners had to vacate the official church property entirely for months, including the cemetery in the backyard.
That meant no one could celebrate holidays or birthdays of the deceased at their grave sites. No private memorials could be held either.
Luck ran on the parish's side during that time though as Carlisle reported during his Sunday sermon that he had not presided at a funeral during the last year.
Anyone wishing the access the cemetery now makes appointments ahead of time as the site, which secure, is considered a construction zone.
Upcoming expenses include a new roof, floors and electrical system for the church as well as the addition of a second floor so a children's ministry can be
As for the present state of the church itself...
"It's empty," said Carlisle.
Despite the loss, Peterson explained that the church itself is still "an active part of the community," having delivered 75 book-bags of school supplies to needy families the week after the church burned.
That came with some help from donations from Five Below after the fire destroyed 100 pre-packed book-bags, according to the three church officials.
With money tight, church members themselves volunteered time to spruce up the temporary site at the 47-year-old NVBC building.
Once Mount Pleasant lost its church structure, the facility the parish moved into didn't have much in the way of basic insulation as cinder blocks served as walls.
The church's men's ministry then pitched in to install drywall.
White plaster brush strokes could be seen on the four walls this past Sunday, as a red and black wet-dry vacuum and a shovel sat among other items in back of the church hall, next to a trash can and a blue carpet darkened in one two-foot spot from apparent water runoff.
Meanwhile, Carisle offered an animated sermon centered on Christian gospel stories about the lead up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Audio through the four speakers clipped repeated when the preacher bellowed into one of two microphones set behind his glass podium with a green felt "N. VA. Baptist Center" banner draped in front.
"Sometimes when you're lost, God will send you an angel," Carlisle told the parishioners gathered in the two rows pews that stretch from the entrance to the altar.
Occasionally, the minister's message could easily relate back to the church's quest to rebuild.
"First of all, it's not hard to say, 'I need some help," said Carlisle.
He then leaned into a wireless mic and exclaimed "God help me!" in an echoing, booming voice that brought a round of agreeing replies from those dressed in their Sunday best sitting before him.
At one point, the crowd chuckled as he lectured about enduring tough times.
"Ask yo' momma if she endured you!" he said to applause. "The question is, do you have the patience to endure everyone else?"
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church is accepting donations for its building fund through checks sent to P.O. Box 236, Gainesville 20155. More information about the church can be found online at http://www.mtpleasantbaptistchurchg.com.