St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church where MLK once spoke facing foreclosure

Church says it owes nearly $211,000 this year

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A small congregational founded in 1875 says it's facing an overwhelming challenge to keep its doors open and the lights on.

The St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church in St. Augustine said it owes this year nearly $211,000.

Sandra Hunter is one of the 75 parishioners at the church.

"We are just having a blessed situation here today," said Hunter. "We invited everybody. It's not a sad occasion because we know what God can do and we trust and believe on his word."

Hunter is participating in a sing-a-thon to raise money.

Reverend Bryon Hodges of St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church said the building is 92-years-old. When it needed restoration a few years ago, the church took out a loan.

"Unfortunately, it's a very common story," said Hodges.

Hard times hit financially, said Hodges, but he said he isn't looking for handouts, just a hand in staying afloat to avoid foreclosure.

"What we are trying to do is show that God is always in control, no matter what the situation may be," said Hodges. "I don't care who you are in this world individually. At some point, everybody needs a hand up. That's where we find ourselves now, in need of a hand up to get back on our feet. Then, we can believe we can do what needs to be done to carry on."

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the church in June 1964. His speech led to the sign in front of the church, noting it as the birth place of the civil rights movement in St. Augustine.

The church said it has planned fundraisers throughout January. They said currently have about $35,000 in arrears of its $200,000 loan.