Rural Shade Baptist Church’s old sanctuary, located at 3304 CR 2274, was razed to the ground Monday to make way for a new multi-purpose building. The old church – the fourth sanctuary used by the congregants in the Tarkington area since the church was established more than 150 years ago – was put into use in 1962 and replaced by a new sanctuary in 2005.
In recent years, before it was condemned due to structural issues, the building had served as a place to store food items for the church’s community food bank.
Watching the demolition on Monday were some of the church deacons and members. Deacon Charlie Rice said the first wedding held in the old building was the union of Ronnie Corn and his wife, Betty Ellisor Corn. The last was the wedding of Rice’s niece, Faith, and her husband, Sonny Mills.
At the time the old sanctuary was built in 1962, it was the first to include the modern necessity of central air conditioning and heating.
Deacon Archie Guillory, who chairs the church’s building and grounds committee, said the new multi-purpose building is part of a three-phase plan that will also include a second building for the food bank and a headquarters for the Helping Hands committee, and a third for a kitchen.
The new multi-purpose center will be 50 X 100 feet with 20-foot eave heights so it can be used as an indoor basketball court. It can also be used to host wedding receptions and other events. The new building will be paid for through donations to the church.
For the demolition, the church paid $1 to Bryan Neal of Cleveland, who essentially donated his time and equipment.
In October 2021, the church received an official historical marker from the Liberty County Historical Commission. Dedication of the marker was delayed by a year due to COVID.
Rural Shade Baptist Church traces its history back to 1870 when a small group of residents gathered in a brush arbor to worship. By July 1878, church founders obtained land for the purpose of erecting a church to serve as a sanctuary and meeting area for the Masonic Lodge. In 1907, the second Rural Shade Baptist Church sanctuary was completed and the old building was granted to the trustees of Oakdale High School. A third church building was erected in 1938.
At this time, the church is without a pastor and is being served by a visiting pastor until a pastor can be appointed.