August 19, 2013 Updated: August 19, 2013 at 11:58 am
FLORENCE — The First Baptist Church congregation in Florence, a fixture in the community for 115 years, turned over its deed to the Florence Arts Council on Sunday because it can no longer afford to stay open.
Pastor Tommy Newell said the congregation may be gone, but the building will continue to provide community support.
"We're running out of parishioners. We're running out of money, and inevitably, we would have to close the doors," Newell said.
Lynn Lemmon-Oliver, owner of the Blue Spruce Gallery, told the congregation their gift would be treasured and long remembered by everyone, according to the Canon City Daily Record (http://tinyurl.com/mtyh86l ). A plaque will be hung on the wall to honor the church's donation.
"This is an occasion for a celebration. The Florence Arts Council is overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement at this tremendous opportunity to give the arts in Florence more visibility," Lemmon-Oliver said at a ceremony that turned the church over to the community.
She said the former church will be used to hold historical debates, concerts, put on arts shows and provide classes for children and adults.
City Manager Mike Patterson thanked the parishioners for their gift.
"I know for a very long time this church has done good in the community and served the spiritual needs for its parishioners and folks out in the community. What you've done in turning this over to the art community in all the opportunities they will have to provide classes and do all the different things they've spoken about will continue that mission for many years to come, in a different way, but still a great mission that you used this church for," he said.
Florence Chamber of Commerce board member Larry Baker said the church has a long history.
"I wonder how many people have been in this church (since it was built more than 100 years ago). These people came to worship. They came to sit and feel the comfort and the safety, and wanting to be with friends. I'm hoping that would continue because that is actually what we do with our arts council. As we move forward to a new life, I think the very same reasons will be important to us," Baker said.
Information from: Canon City Daily Record, http://www.canoncitydailyrecord.com/