Church soon will be history

The Marietta Seventh-day Adventist Church, which has graced Fourth Street since the 1800s, will soon no longer be a practicing church building and will eventually be torn down.

Christiane Marshall, an 11-year church member and wife to Pastor Victor Marshall, said the church has gone through some struggles in recent times and has been sold to the First Presbyterian Church.

“It’s kind of a nice cooperative thing,” Christiane said of the sale. “We really didn’t have the money for the upkeep (of the church).”

First Presbyterian Church member Richard Ratzlaff said the building is in disrepair.

“That building is falling down; it’s in very bad shape,” he said. “We’ve pretty much decided to demolish it. We don’t have a date yet for the demolition…the tear down probably won’t happen until late this year; it’s not imminent.”

Christiane said it’s a unique situation because the church was owned by the Presbyterian church some time ago.

“The Presbyterians have a history with the church; they owned it before the Adventists did,” she said. “There was a small Adventist church in Bartlett and (one in) Marietta. They merged (and worshiped in Marietta).”

She said the church is being cleaned out and a sale will be held today from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., unless things are gone before then.

Church member Greg Rothwell said the church has an interesting history with a famous World War II veteran.

“(The church’s) claim to fame is Col. Dean E. Hess (who used to be a member),” Rothwell said. “Paramount Pictures made a movie about him and Rock Hudson starred in it. (Hollywood) came to Marietta…It was one of the bigger things that happened in Marietta.”

Worship for the Adventists will soon move to the Presbyterian church.

“The Presbyterian church has been kind enough to allow us to worship in their chapel,” Christiane said. “I think we might have 25 members on the books right now. We may have many visitors that aren’t members…Worship will be Saturday mornings. (The Presbyterian church) probably won’t be using their chapel on Saturdays.”

Services will be at 11 a.m., with Sabbath School preceding that at 10 a.m.

Pastor Victor Marshall said the Seventh-day Aventists’ faith differs from many other religions.

“Adventists believe in the second coming of Jesus; the imminent, apocalyptic return of Christ,” he said. “We’re encouraging everyone to prepare for that event. Then, of course, with the belief of the imminent return of Christ, there is the Seventh Day Sabbath (with worship on Saturday, not the start of the week).”

There are four things that make the Adventist church unique from many other denominations, the pastor said.

“We are a minority denomination, numbering less than 20 million worldwide,” said Victor Marshall. “We’re the most widespread of all the Protestant denominations, in 200 countries around the world. We believe we have a special message to give the world and we are the most vigorous of the Protestant mission organizations.”

Ratzlaff said once torn down, the space will be converted.

“We want to convert it into green space,” he said. “We just built a parking lot on the other side of the building…We talked about maybe making a memorial garden. Pioneer Preschool needs a play area. They had space where the parking lot is located…(A play area is) one of the things we hope to establish over there.”

Christiane said she approached the Washington County historical society about possibly getting a grant to restore the church, but was told because it is a church the chance of getting a grant is slim.

“It’s a part of Marietta’s history,” she said. “The building is beautiful…To really update the building would cost $100,000 or more…Somebody has to (be able to maintain old buildings). It’s very sad.”

Ratzlaff said a goal is to repair the stained glass windows in the church, which can cost upwards of $5,000.

“At this point we’re attempting to find ways of saving the very nice windows over there but they are in very bad shape,” he said. “We’re searching around to see if there’s any company or organization that could help us preserve the windows.”

Despite losing the building, Christiane said the church will continue to focus on helping residents.

“It was very painful to make that decision,” she said. “We have in the past done a lot of community service…We can serve more people (in town) than in outlying areas…We prefer to use that money to help people.”