|City/Town: • Eudora • Little Rock|
|Location Class: • Church|
|Built: • NLR - 1947, Eudora - 1920s | Abandoned: • 2011|
|Status: • Demolished|
|Photojournalist: • Michael Schwarz • Eddy Sisson • Grant King • Jared Holt|
The mystery behind 2 Abandoned churches
Perhaps the only thing more depressing than an empty church is a church that is almost empty. An empty church always has the prospect of rebirth, while a church that has gradually dwindled down from being full to almost empty generally only faces the prospect of a gradual, lingering death. But unlike most churches, the worship facility located right off of Pike Street in North Little Rock has fully crossed this spectrum twice and now seemingly stands at the dawn of its third cycle and what just might prove to be its most ambitious and profitable life yet. The life and death of Gloryland and its community is not over.
I am not trying to get sentimental, but I can remember when abandoned Arkansas 1st started in late 2012. I had just started college and just moved to Arkansas. Having no friends and boredom on weekends led me to North Little Rock to try and find “cool stuff to photograph.” After what I thought was a wrong turn and getting lost, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a 3 story white brick building with broken windows.
I was immediately taken back by this and was intrigued to go inside. I spoke with a neighbor and a passing police officer that told me the owner of the building had disappeared and that entry would not upset anybody. With that in mind, I cautiously entered the structure. There were papers everywhere, all the pews were still in their place and even a drum set at the front of the sanctuary. It looked like the entire place had been frozen in time. Part of me wasn’t even sure if it was closed. Walking around, I continued to see everything perfectly placed where it should be. The toys in the nursery, desks in the office’s and a sign at the front “Prove God Now.” I wish I had taken more pictures the 1st time I went in because by the time I had come back, thieves, homeless and vandals had made there way around.
After spending close to 3 hours walking around, I made my way back to my apartment in silence; wondering how and why a place like that was closed with everything left the way it was. I immediately Went to my friend Google to see what I could find. I found a few YouTube videos, a Facebook page and some business profiles, but nothing about its closure. According to everything I found, it was still operating. I was absolutely mystified. On a sign in front of the building and on numerous papers I found laying around, I noticed, Pastor Cedric Hayes. This man had seemed to have vanished. Other documents indicated there were 3 Gloryland locations in total. One in Wynne, Eudora and of course, North Little Rock. Every number I found, every address I saw was a dead end. All three locations now, closed. I sent emails and commented every I could looking for any clue. That’s when I finally got the call back I was looking for, from the one and only Cedric Hayes. After talking on the phone for a few minutes, he agreed to meet with me at an Applebee’s (not my first choice). Although he was slightly confused about why I wanted to talk with him, we spoke for over 3 hours.
Pike Avenue Baptist Church – North Little Rock
The story of “the little worship facility that could” begins 67 years ago. It was 1947, North Little Rock was a bustling, growing community of 102,000, the Park Avenue Baptist Church opened up to the community right off of Pike Street. By 1960, North Little Rock had grown to a city of 108,000 and the Pike Avenue Baptist Church had itself swelled up into a congregation of 300 members. The church remained a vibrant and growing body of believers all the way through the 1960’s, the 1970’s, and well into the 1980’s. But while the city of North Little Rock continued to grow all around the church, the community and the world beyond it gradually changed in ways that made church growth itself more and more difficult. Fewer and fewer young adults came along to replace the aging adults as they began to gradually pass away one by one over time. As faithful members moved away, fewer and fewer new members found their way into the congregation to replenish the waning tide. The happy sounds of children’s voices within the church’s worship facility gradually grew more and more faint until they finally stopped being heard at all. What had been well-orchestrated efforts toward ambitious church growth turned into a desperate battle for simple survival that would ultimately dwindle down into a grim waiting game. By the time the early 1990’s rolled around a scant 10 members remained within the church, a mere reminder of the once vibrant congregation that had radiated throughout the facility. When the church’s seemingly inevitable fate finally arrived and claimed the remnants of the once great congregation, it didn’t come as a surprise to that final handful of the faithful – by that time the small group of believers had seen it coming for a while. And down but not out, they embraced the final option open to them, consolidated their small remaining number with that of another nearby church, and they sold off the worship facility. And that is how the Pike Avenue Baptist Church was born, that is how the congregation lived, and that is how it died.
“Gloryland Ministies Part 1”
Enter Cedric Hayes, man of God.
Having himself begun as a pastor in a nearby neighborhood, Cedric Hayes’ held many cherished recollections of the once mighty Pike Avenue Baptist congregation and felt a special attachment to the old worship facility. And where an active membership that had been 300 strong at it’s peak once labored and ultimately fell, Pastor Hayes remained fervently convinced that the prospect of a glorious future yet remained. Could one man succeed where three-hundred had quietly dwindled down to none? In a bold statement of faith that would have made the Old Testament judge Gideon himself proud, Pastor Hayes decided that the answer was yes. In 1993 he arranged for the purchase of the old Pike Avenue Baptist Church property, and through this act of one man’s faith in God, the Gloryland Baptist Church took over the abandoned Pike Avenue facility.
But even then, the new congregation that rose up within the old facility already had deep roots of love within the surrounding community. Starting out himself as the pastor of another much smaller church within North Little Rock, Hayes’ simply wanted to make a positive difference on a spiritual level. He first started Gloryland on a much smaller scale by renovating an old garage. Driven by the simple desire to save some of the local kids who were falling prey to the negative influences that had become prominent within the surrounding neighborhoods, Hayes worked tirelessly in his pursuit. Hayes’ faithful determination and heart-felt desires shined through in the most beautiful ways, too, and that little church began to grow as a result of his continued efforts within the Lord. As the church got bigger, it began to need a larger facility to serve as its headquarters and place of worship. Through his continued hard work, vision, and perseverance, Hayes was finally able to raise enough money to secure the old Pike Avenue Baptist Church in 1993. As the church became more and more of a driving force within the community, they renamed it the Gloryland Fellowship Family Church.
In 2004, Pastor Hayes found him self in the very Southeast corner of Arkansas, Eudora. He was there to help close out a revival, but while there, Hayes received a calling to open another church found the First Presbyterian Church near-by, it had been vacant for a few years and was for sale for $20,000. Hayes new this was a great opportunity and raised the funds. He opened a full-on soup kitchen for the area and it was always packed. This historic church was originally built in the 1920s and Cedric made sure to keep everything as it was. “Everything was still in there when I bought it. All we had to do was move our stuff in, pretty much.”
For a year, Hayes was preaching at 3 churches all across Arkansas AT THE SAME TIME. “Some would consider that insanity” Hayes told me laughing. “I started in Wynne at 9AM, then Little Rock at 12PM and then Eudora at 3PM. I had so much going on.”
Eventually disharmonies arouse within the church, various factions ended up forming amongst the members, and over time it had a negative impact on the unity of the congregation. Dismayed and confused by this gradual turn of events, members began to lose their faith in the work and leave. Refusing to be daunted, Pastor Hayes continued to pour his heart into his work and he started a new effort amongst the youth of both the church and the community. Working fervently with all of the young people that he was able to draw into the effort, Pastor Hayes ended up forming what he began referring to as “The Pastor’s Choir.” youth that he called “The Pastor’s Choir.” His original intention had been to simply start a choir as a means of getting the kids off of the street, but as he continued to work with them he quickly realized that the kids had some various serious talent and the choir became popular very quickly. In recent years, this choir was featured on “America’s Got Talent.”
The Gloryland Pastor’s Choir On KARK 4 News:
Issues within the over-all membership continued to take a heavy toll on the unity of the congregation, however, and by 2011 the membership had decreased to the point that they were forced to once again close down the Eudora location, then shortly after, the Park Avenue facility. First, the Eudora congregation became too small to fund Hayes gas bill took a toll then moving just two blocks down the street to a smaller building in NLR, next having to relocate to a hotel meeting room on a Sunday-to-Sunday basis, the membership finally decreased to the point that the church simply ceased altogether. But Pastor Hayes, his faith undeterred and his conviction unshaken, continued to work with the children in the special ministry that he had formed around them. The choir continued to grow and increase in scope and stature and today Haye’s tours with them all over the United States as they share their faith, utilize their talent, and inspire all who come into contact with them.
Walking through the North Little Rock location up to it’s unfortunate demolition in 2017, it showed a lot of work that needed to be done. However, the Location in Eudora sits in great shape in comparison. And Cedric has major plans as the previous life of the building continues to shine through. The various and miscellaneous discarded odds and ends bear silent testimony to the faithful hands that held them back during another, more active time. Rows of church pews continue to look expectantly forward toward the lectern at the head of the auditorium, patiently awaiting yet another blessed installment of the Divine Word. And while the interior of the facility remains empty of people, it continues to be blessed by the memories of all of the decades of believers that passed within it.
Gloryland can never die or completely fade away…not so long as believers such as Pastor Hayes continue to live and hold onto the keys. Indeed, as you speak with Pastor Hayes about his righteous purpose and as you observe him looking at the building simply waiting to bloom again before him, you can almost hear the congregation sing…
Article by AAR Photojournalist Michael Schwarz
And as for the Eudora facility – it’s spirit remains persistent and it’s outlook remains bright. Always eager to move forward, forever anxious to do more, and determined to serve the community to the utmost of his ability, Pastor Hayes is currently drawing up plans to renovate the old church building, converting it into a community center, reopening the full soup kitchen and hopes to eopen another branch of a non-profit he helps with in Little Rock today. Being friends with Pastor Hayes since 2013, I wanted to be involved, not just because this is a historic building, but because I believe that he has a great plan and deep down he just wants to help. We have already had 1 volunteer day to clean-up debris, rip-up old carpet and prepare for the next steps. If you would like to be notified of more volunteer days coming up, please sign-up here. We would love your help!
Sign-up to Volunteer: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/14r4p4jwpveKY6qex_UYywFv3dUZulrjBKcyN04WnADw
North Little Rock Photos (For Eudora, keeps scrolling)
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