Historic church building could be moved 80 miles away

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GERMANTON, N.C. -- A 19th-century Germanton church building that's on the National Register of Historic Places may be moved 80 miles away.

St. Philip's Episcopal Church has straddled the Stokes and Forsyth County lines since 1894. The church still doesn't have electricity or running water, just like when it was built.

The Episcopal diocese, which owns the property, wants to move the building to the Church of the Advocate in Carrboro, Orange County. The diocese believes it could be better used by a growing congregation than continuing to sit unused like it has for many years.

The proposal got rolling last year, when the diocese contacted Germanton Baptist Church, which sits literally next door to St. Philip's.

"They expressed that they nether had the energy or the resources to maintain St Philip's," said Rev. Jeff Stevens with Germanton Baptist. "They expressed to keep that building in the Kingdom of God and for it to be used for its purposes."

The diocese asked the church whether it wanted to buy the property. Stevens, himself dealing with a growing church with nowhere to expand, said yes.

"How beautiful the provision of God that he would meet the needs of two churches by moving one empty unused building," Stevens said.

As houses surround both churches and the Germanton Baptist parking lot is located behind the churches, Stevens said he's currently landlocked.

A nonprofit has been formed to keep the Gothic Revival-style church here. David Bergstone with Preserve Historic Forsyth said it's only one of two such churches still standing in Forsyth County. He's also concerned the building could lose its place in the national register if it's moved.

"In losing a historic building, you lose a piece of the community. You lose that identity. That's why we call it the National Register of Historic Places. It's not necessarily the building that's important as the place where the building is located," Bergstone said.

The nonprofit "Friends of St. Philip's Church" will meet Feb. 26 in hopes of finding alternatives. You can learn more about the nonprofit at savestphilips.posterous.com.

The diocese is waiting on permits to move the church at a price tag of $500,000. If it can't get a permit, the building could become the property of Germanton Baptist.

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