Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

What Became of Main Street Baptist?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

What Became of Main Street Baptist?

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

Dear Call Box: I was driving down Main Street and noticed that the building that once housed Main Street Baptist Church is now home to Westside Church of Christ. Why is it called Westside when it's in Springfield, and what happened to the Main Street congregation?

W.S.

Dear W.S.: The Westside Church of Christ has its roots on the Westside, and it kept the name even after its move to Springfield. Westside's origins date to 1930 when Riverside Park Church of Christ called a minister from Nashville to conduct a tent meeting on Ernest Street in Mixon Town, according to Westside's website. In 1934, the fledgling group moved to McCoy Boulevard at Dellwood Avenue, again in West Jacksonville. In 1974, the congregation made another move - to 2725 Laura St., west of Main Street. Back then, any area west of Main was considered the Westside, church officials said.

Meanwhile, Main Street Baptist, founded in 1904, had a large congregation with at least 3,000 members. But attendance dropped steadily over the years as members moved away, and its aging congregation dwindled to about 50. When Westside outgrew its Laura Street property, it bought the white-columned red brick church at Eighth and Main streets in 2001 for $1.2 million.

The Rev. Elisha Taylor Jr., the church's current pastor, said attendance ranges from 350 to 400 and that the church has a clothing ministry and feeds the needy once a month.

After the sale of its building to Westside, Main Street's remaining members voted to change the name to New Berlin Road Church, said the Rev. Matthew Meadows, its pastor of seven years. Perhaps a dozen went to Franklin Street Baptist, and others elsewhere, he said. But some remained and moved into the new sanctuary that was built at 2351 New Berlin Road in North Jacksonville. Since then, many have gone into nursing homes, died or moved to other cities.

In March 2012, a fire caused extensive damage to New Berlin's sanctuary. But Meadows said the Bible in front of the pulpit, the one he had read from the Sunday before the fire, survived, like a bright spot shining through the soot and the heat-warped ceiling. …

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