Landmark Woodlawn church to be rebuilt

By Johnathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A landmark in the Woodlawn section of Birmingham is coming back to life. A year and a half ago, the Woodlawn United Methodist Church sanctuary burned to the ground. On Sunday, church members and neighborhood celebrated the historic church's rebirth.

The mental picture of flames shooting out of stainglass windows are a year and a half old, but for members of the church, the memories are still fresh. "It was hard to believe until the pictures came through, and it was pretty evident, it just was really hard, because it had been a church home for me since way back," said church member Virginia Schmitt.

Way back for Schmitt means 1925, that is when she joined this church and now, at 93-years-old, she will be part of this congregation's new chapter. "Mixed emotions that we had to move to the other sanctuary, but glad we can rebuild," Schmitt said.

"I never anticipated this early on in ministry, I would help facilitate a project this big, but it took a lot of planning, a lot of seeking and searching," said new pastor Rev. Matt Lacey. "It was a big task, but we're grateful the day has come."

Rev. Lacey is on the other end of the age spectrum but he appreciates how important the decision to stay in this community and rebuild is. "It's a very big job, and a very big project. A lot rests on this. Our survival as a church, our growth as a church, but we firmly believe God is moving in this community, and we've decided we will move with God."

The new sanctuary will be built facing 54th Street, not 1st Avenue like the old one did, and the new building will have plenty of classroom and community meeting space, as well as full-sized gym to try and reach out to the neighborhood around it.
But the new building will have some of the limestone and furnishings from the old sanctuary, a nod to the congregation's bridge it is crossing now from the past into the future.

"Now we have a vision for the future, we have hope of staying in this community and being of service to God in this community," said building committee member John Somerset.

The church hopes the new building will be open for use in August or September.

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