Dec. 11, 2005 A spirited rendition of "Unto the House of the Lord" set the stage for Sunday's dedication at the new Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on St. John.
"I rejoiced when they said to me, 'Let us go unto the house of the Lord,'" sang the church choir, dressed in white with kente cloths draped around their necks.
The dedication was filled with symbolism, with Diocese of the Virgin Islands Bishop George V. Murry anointing the altar with oil and sprinkling water on the church and those in the pews.
He also received the church's blueprints and key from parishioners involved in the building project.
Murry, reminiscing, said that he recalled the day the church's former pastor, the Rev. Neil Scantlebury, called to tell him the church needed a new building.
"Then Father Crespo came and he carried on the project," Murry said, referring to the current pastor, the Rev. Charles Crespo.
The old building, which had sections dating back to 1962, was in bad repair.
Church member Bob Nose said he was surprised that the building was actually completed.
"I'm sorry for being a doubting Thomas," he said.
He said there were many obstacles along the way, including getting the plans made.
Church member Bern Putnam spoke about the fund-raising that went into getting the church built.
"It's been a long time coming," he said.
Loellise Powell said she wouldn't have missed the dedication.
"This has been my church since I was a child," she said.
Work started around 1999. First, crews tore down the back half of the building, which housed the rectory and office. When that section was rebuilt, they demolished the church itself to make way for the new one.
Crespo said earlier that construction stopped in 2003 because Our Lady of Mount Carmel had run out of money.
"The only thing we put up was the roof," he said.
He said the church fund-raised, and again began construction.
Crespo said the church is still $10,000 in debt, money spent so it could get the church sufficiently completed to hold the dedication.
While the new church was under construction, services were held in the newly-built meeting room.
Crespo estimated that by the time the church is done, the price tag will come in at about $800,000.
While the church building is complete, Our Lady of Mount Carmel still needs furnishings and other accessories.
"I've been pricing pews. With the manufacture, delivery and installation, it will cost $50,000," Crespo said.
He said he hopes that 25 people will each buy a pew for $2,000.
And, he said he needs several thousand dollars to pay for the mural that graces the church's interior.
Crespo said the church also needs a confessional, a place to put votive candles, candle stands, flower stands, risers for the balcony pews, stations of the cross, an Our Lady of Mount Carmel road sign, and a church bell as well as a control system.
"We're anticipating that raising funds will take six months to a year," he said.
He said that money put into the collection plate usually goes up during the busier winter months, which will help fund the needed items.
"We're counting on it," he said.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was begun thanks to the efforts of William Callahan and donations from others. Callahan funded the land and the building.
The old church was officially blessed on Aug. 12, 1962 with then-Bishop Edward J. Harper officiating.
Before the church went up, visiting priests held monthly services at Caneel Bay Resort, private homes, Miss Keating's Guest House veranda, and eventually, at Callahan's house on Centerline Road.
Once the church was built, priests came only a few times a month from St. Thomas for services in the early years.
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