Couple seeks help to renovate old Iowa church

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) – 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 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports 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.

Kirkland-Holmes 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.