|City/Town: • Carden Bottoms|
|Location Class: • Church|
|Year Built: • 1930's|
|Year Abandoned: • 2001|
|Status: • Demolished|
|Photojournalist: • Michael Schwarz|
At one time a center of the Carden Bottoms community, The old Assembly of God church building now sits deserted, almost completely empty, and largely forgotten…one of just a few silent and slowly decaying reminders of the thriving rural farming community that used to exist around it. Located along the side of what has become a scarcely traveled, lonely, and dusty dirt road far removed from any population center, the old church building quietly calls out to the occasional passer-by. Long-faded white paint peels from the church building’s wooden exterior as the surrounding vegetation gradually grows upward in a slow moving battle to completely cover and conceal the aging worship center from view.
The church building was originally located further down the dirt road and a black smith’s shop sat where the church now does. The black smith’s shop disappeared from the community, however, and the entire church building was moved to the location in its place. As time moved on and progress advanced forward, other buildings, businesses, shops, and homes continued to vanish from the community just as the old black smith’s shop had. Cotton gins, small general stores, little grocery stores, gas stations, a post office, numerous homes and farm houses…they all vanished one by one as the town slowly marched forward toward the inevitable brink of extinction. The occasional over-grown foundation is all that now remains of where those businesses once served generations of townspeople. All that is left of the farm houses where generations of families were born, lived, and grew old are the occasional strands of trees that were planted long ago for the purpose of giving those cherished dwellings shade. And this old forgotten church building…the words ”Carden Bottoms Assembly of God” still proclaiming the building’s passing identity in fading black letters painted over the front doorway.
A carpeted auditorium large enough to hold perhaps 60 congregants (now empty of pews), a fellowship annex built onto the side which housed a complete kitchen, two little restrooms, and four small classrooms – The Carden Bottoms Assembly of God perfectly fit the description of a small, rural church building. A plaque within the church building awards the congregation for having the most wealthy membership of any Assembly of God within its district. The plaque is dated 1967. The most recently dated paper within the abandoned church building is found in the church’s foyer on a notice pinned to the bulletin board; it’s dated 2001. The thirty-four years between these two dates and all of the years that undoubtedly went before them no doubt saw the church prosper, a long and now completely forgotten succession of pastors, countless worship assemblies and community fellowship functions, congregational singings, numerous townspeople finding God, the youth of the community growing up to become the leaders of the congregation, weddings, funerals, and all other forms and manors of church-related functions. Each funeral marked a further decline in the community’s population and the church’s membership. Each of the Carden Bottoms school’s graduating classes saw more of its young people leaving the community never to return, seeking their fortunes in greener pastures and centers of greater population. And one by one, all of the other buildings within the community faded away, vanished, and were. And then, one Sunday morning in 2001, the last small handful of frail and aged members conducted the church’s last worship service, joined together for one final prayer, turned out the lights, closed the church building’s front door…and never returned…