WATERLOO |The faith of the congregants of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church is strong. It’s the building that’s crumbling.
After 102 years, the church at East Fifth and Walnut streets is showing its age.
Though the exterior’s bricks are loose and falling in places, the leaking roof is causing the most damage. The beautiful stained glass roof and sunlit sanctuary are marred by falling plaster and exposed wooden slats.
The Rev. Robert Holmes and his wife, Gloria Kirkland-Holmes, thought their prayers for funding repairs would be answered by getting the 1912-built, domed church on the National Register of Historic Places.
But grant after grant application was either turned down or not right for the church.
Now, after the Holmeses decided to raise funds and spent their own retirement money on repairs, they are contending with regular downpours that halt work and wreak further havoc on the roof and the church’s interior.
“It’s been a long journey, because if you didn’t have faith, you’d just give up,” said Gloria Kirkland-Holmes.
Holmes, who has been preaching for 33 years in Waterloo, said the roof work has continued off and on as they have raised funds or dipped into their savings.
So far, the roof repairs have halted the further deterioration of the interior nearest the main entrance.
They’ve had many challenges in getting work done -- like roofers who refuse to work atop the 60-foot dome and a multi-layered roof. But much of their ability to offer services is dictated by whether there’s been a recent thunderstorm.
“There’s so many needs, you can’t just stop doing the good deeds because the building is leaking or something like that,” said Kirkland-Holmes. “We know that our church is needed. We know that we do a lot of service.”
She said much of their service work continues now on the University of Northern Iowa campus, where she works.
The pastor said he’s also looking for another temporary location to continue to do service work outside the church.
Because the church’s congregants are mostly low-income or have young families, Kirkland-Holmes said, the church cannot rely on them for larger donations. That’s why they’re reaching out to the larger Waterloo community for help.
She said the repairs are estimated to cost $90,000, but they can make $40,000 work.
She also invited anyone to donate a bundle of shingles, which costs about $25.
Mount Carmel Baptist Church, where the couple met, is planning to hold a fundraiser for Mount Moriah’s building needs. That event will be 4 p.m. July 20 at Mount Carmel, 805 Adams St., hosted by the Rev. Frantz Whitfield.
Robert Holmes said the church will also accept checks made out to Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church that are mailed to their location at 633 Walnut St.
He and his wife purchased the building from Grace United Methodist Church in 1996. The for-sale sign went up just as they were looking to build their own new church.
The building could have been a drug rehab center or culinary school or exercise center, but Kirkland-Holmes said the owners preferred to sell the building to another church.
She said it was like a dream come true when they purchased the building. They still have the video of their youngest son, then 2 years old, running up and down the aisles between the pews yelling, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
They’re hoping for a similar miracle to save the church a second time.