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Closed down Athens church could see new light because of local preservation society

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The Mount Zion Baptist Church closed its doors in the early 2000s, but a preservation society baring the same name wants to open them again. There's a lot of work that needs to be done first. Photo by Marianne Dodson.

The Mount Zion Baptist Church closed its doors in the early 2000s, but a preservation society baring the same name wants to open them again. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done first.

From sermons to weddings to funerals, the Mount Zion Baptist Church has seen a lot during its 100-year lifespan. But soon, it could be seeing something entirely different.

Mount Zion has fallen into a state of disrepair over the last few decades, and the Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is hoping to revitalize and redo parts of the church in order to revive it.

The church has been the subject of a hard-fought custody battle over the last several years, and in 2017 the preservation society took ownership of the church. But the work didn’t stop with this victory — the bill for renovations is expected to surpass $1 million.

“The initial feeling was just one of great relief and pleasure that we have a real chance of saving this building,” preservation society treasurer Ron Luce said. “We knew it was gonna be expensive, and we knew it was gonna be a lot of work.”

WATCH: Local group hopes to bring old church back to life

One of the primary goals of the preservation society is raising sufficient funds for the restoration of the church, which will go toward things like replacing the roof, excavating and waterproofing the basement walls and ventilating the attic.

Many who are dedicated to revitalizing the church have a personal connection to it. Athens resident and longtime churchgoer Ada Woodson Adams felt called back to the church after years away from Athens.

“We were brought back here for a reason,” Woodson Adams said. “I think the reason why is to save this site and to let people know that we have a piece of history here that not only represents the black community but the Athens community at large.”

Woodson Adams experienced many of her life’s most treasured moments in the church. It was Mount Zion where she was baptized and got married to her late husband, Al. The couple left Athens for several years, but came back in 1999, six years before the church held its last event.

“God works in mysterious ways,” Woodson Adams said. “Because, who would have thought that Al and I would be coming back to save the church where we were married and Al and I were baptized.”

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