Willard Ketchum stands in the middle of his family church, surrounded by broken, termite-infested wood and open dead space.
Surveying over the crumbling wood and dirt ground, he recalls the memories within Castle Chapel Methodist Church.
For over a century, the rural church has brought fellowship and ministry to the tight-knit community.
Now its few remaining members are fighting to keep their beloved church building.
“We are a tight-knit, little country church,” Ketchum said. “We were trying to build it back up, and then this sort of happened.”
The discovery of a termite infestation put the momentum of the church to a screeching halt. Now members find themselves searching for the money and help to preserve their building.
“It was the first of June when we noticed something at the back door here,” Ketchum said, placing his foot on what remained of the wooden floor joists. “Every time you stepped on it, it just got soft.”
Ketchum and his grandson volunteered to pull the soft wood up. The two thought it would be a simple repair job for their family church.
But what the found under them took a turn.
“The carpenter told us, ‘I hate to tell y’all this, but you have got termites under there,’” Ketchum said.
Members began tearing up the floor and walls of the sanctuary to find heavy termite damage. The decision to tear the building down or invest in a costly renovation was easy to make for some.
“We have been here so long that we hated to just tear the building down,” Ketchum said. “We are not tearing it down. We are going to save it.”
The church’s humble beginnings began in 1906. And for over 100 years, the church has been a sanctuary for many families.
The church has relocated over the years, but it’s current building was constructed in 1942.
“This is my family church,” Ketchum said. “I am 62 years old, and I can say that I have been going here for those 62 years. We are all just about kinfolk here.”
In fact, Ketchum’s brother-in-law James “Bubba” Carter serves as the church’s preacher.
“And we got the best piano player in the world,” Ketchum said, with a smile. “Jamie Isonhood...he can whoop that piano.”
For now, the church holds its services in the fellowship hall. On average, about 20 members are there every Sunday.
The church is asking for any volunteers or donations to help save their damaged building.
One member said that although they may be small in number, the church is their “refuge.”
“We just can’t tear it down,” Ketchum said. “We want to keep it, save it. I am doing what I can, but this is going to be a big project.”
For more information, call Carter at 590-5641.
And as the summer heat pounds down on the building, Ketchum begins to pull up the aging wood of his family church.
He, along with others, are determined to save their church building, their history.
The termite damage and rotting wood can’t destroy the solid foundation of Castle Chapel Methodist Church.