Article by Chris Sokoloski
The congregation of St. Mary AME Church in Pawleys Island has started a campaign to raise $200,000 to replace the church’s roof, which is more than 50 years old.
In January 1965, St. Mary AME Church in Pawleys Island opened its doors for worship for the first time.
It took nearly four years to build the church due to the fact that most of the materials were donated and all the work was done by the area’s residents.
“It wasn’t done professionally, it was just guys in the community got together and stepped it out and built it nail by nail, board by board,” said St. Mary’s current pastor, the Rev. Rose M. Stokes-Smalls.
The roof that was on the building in 1965 remains to this day, and needs to be replaced.
The church has started a capital campaign to raise the nearly $200,000 it needs for the work, and a special guest is coming to Pawleys Island to help kick off the fund raising.
Bishop Samuel L. Green Sr., presiding prelate, Seventh Episcopal District AME Church, will lead a worship service on Sunday, July 30, at 3 p.m.
Not only will Green be leading the service, he’s also bringing a sizable donation with him for the roof fund.
“We’ve been blessed by this bishop who’s pledged to give us the first $10,000,” Stokes-Smalls said. “This is not the first church he’s written checks to help them do something for their congregation.”
Stokes-Smalls has been in ministry for 18 years and said she’s never seen a bishop make a pledge like this.
Sylvester Deas, one of the church elders, said they first realized there was a problem with the roof in early 2016, just before Stokes-Smalls became pastor. A leak in the sanctuary led to the discovery that the eaves were starting to push out from the building.
Over the years church members had put up sheetrock, new shingles and chandeliers, which Deas believes may have quickened the roof’s demise.
“It wasn’t structurally sound to support all that extra weight,” Stokes-Smalls added.
Deas also believes age is catching up with the roof’s trusses, which were handmade by the original volunteer builders.
“Over the years they just started wearing down,” Deas said.
Both Stokes-Smalls and Deas said for now, the church plans to continue to use the building.
“We are concerned as we continue to watch how the ceiling and the sheetrock (is) separating,” Stokes-Smalls said. “I don’t know how much longer we have to be safe in this facility.”
The church created a 12-member ad-hoc committee to plan more fundraisers. One of the first things committee members did was donate either $500 or $1,000 to the roof fund.
“Just to give us seed money to start and to show our bishop when he comes that we really are working,” Stokes-Smalls said.
The pastor hopes the people who attend the worship service with the bishop will give generously to the roof fund. Her goal is to have about $50,000 by the time the bishop leaves.
“I’m not sure how we’ll get there yet, but it would be a good start,” Stokes-Smalls said.
Along with monetary donations, Deas said the church would also accept donations of materials or services.
Monetary donations can be sent to St. Mary AME Church, P.O. Box 285, Pawleys Island SC 29585.
For more information on other ways to help, call the church at 843-813-7909