Something extraordinary happened one warm December afternoon in Mount Dora. The community rallied to make a kind woman's far-fetched dream become a reality.
Beaulah Babbs, 80, the last parishioner of Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, wanted to see a service in her little church again and longed to hear singing under its rusty metal roof.
On December 17 Babbs' dream became a reality. With the help of the community, led by David Cohea, a renewed energy flowed into the withering white landmark that sits at the southern entrance to Mount Dora. After a few weekends with volunteers working to spruce up the inside and outside, the sanctuary was decked out for the holidays in preparation for the church's first service in over a decade.
Phil Barnard, owner of Magical Meat Boutique in downtown Mount Dora, crafted a replica of the original sign which was damaged beyond repair. Barnard worked into the night installing the sign so it would be ready in time.
The small private Christmas service was attended by Babbs and her family, parishioners from St. Annis Primitive Baptist Church in Deland that conducted the soulful service, as well as a handful of others from the community.
Although the conditions in the church are rustic with no air-conditioning or running water due to a broken well pump, the spirit of the service was incredibly joyful and emotional. Gospel hymns and Christmas songs filled the small space and joy spilled outside where refreshments awaited. The day also provided an opportunity for curious residents to take a peek inside the church, which was built in 1896.
Mount Zion's preservation has only just begun. It will take tremendous community effort and funding to stabilize the structure and restore it to its former glory.
Tax-deductible donations for the church's preservation can be made by check payable to MDCT Live Oak Fund and sent to Mount Dora Community Trust, 821 N. Donnelly Street, Mount Dora FL, 32757. In-kind contracting, engineering, landscaping and plumbing donations are also needed.
Read more about the history of Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church