After years of decline, signs of progress are visible at the beloved Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church. A community work day in November resulted in the interior and exterior clearing of the church to prepare for termite tenting. By midday, the large donated dumpster was full.
The tiny church at the southern entrance to Mount Dora underwent fumigation on November 29 in order to begin the painstaking process of preservation. The next step requires addressing structural issues, so the quaint house of worship can get a fresh coat of paint early next year.
The church's last parishioner, Beaulah Babbs, 80, (pictured below with her son), will finally get her wish to see a church service take place on the site again. On December 17, Mount Zion will host a small Christmas service.
Meanwhile, local volunteers, headed by Mount Dora resident David Cohea, have their hands full preparing for the event. Much like planning a wedding, there are a lot of big and little details to tackle. Insects made a meal of the church's pews, so new seating is necessary, and the well needs repair for running water. Finally, the church's interior will need to be spruced up and decorated.
Volunteers are invited to roll up their sleeves on Saturday, December 3 and December 10 at 10 a.m. to help with these projects.
Due to the capacity limitations of the church, the Christmas service will primarily have seating for Babbs and her extended family, as well as members of St. Annis Primitive Baptist Church in Deland, who have volunteered to provide the service. A public reception to follow the service is tentatively planned for 3:30 p.m.
After the Christmas service, the plan is to prepare a condition report to provide a blueprint for Mount Zion's restoration.
"The longer-range plan for this old church in our community may be longer in taking shape. Sacred spaces like this can’t be lost, and Mount Zion’s 150 years of service deserves recognition," wrote Cohea.
Any donations of xeriscape plants, church seating, a small piano or organ, contractor time, or monetary donations are still needed and greatly appreciated. People who can help with any of these items can email firstname.lastname@example.org.