ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Prayers have been answered for a crumbling historic church in St. Augustine.
For several years, Trinity Independent Church has been dealing with a cracking bell tower.
The building was deemed unsafe in 2014, so the congregation couldn't meet inside the church.
Money and construction bids are now coming in to fix it.
"It feels like we're on our way," Pastor Craig Anderson said with a smile.
The cracks are separating bricks in the tower. Metal beams continue to support the structure. The damage is so bad the congregation has had to hold services elsewhere.
Even though it's pointed out as a historic church to tourists, the congregation was so small, it didn't have the money to repair the bell tower until recently.
The Lincolnville Community Redevelopment Area -- or CRA -- is allotting $250,000 to the church, and the construction bids have already started coming in.
"It's going to stabilize the bell tower," Anderson said.
The Lincolnville CRA gathers money from property taxes in Lincolnville and applies it toward blighted areas in the neighborhood. A CRA steering committee member said the church received the money because of its prominent location in the neighborhood and because of its history.
Once known as Trinity United Methodist Church, it is reportedly one of the oldest protestant congregations in Florida and a place where Civil Rights rallies were held and where demonstrators sought refuge.
"We are thrilled," Bob Mermell said. He and his wife live near the church.
Many neighbors echo Mermell's excitement. They are glad the church is getting help and that the help is coming from the property taxes in their own neighborhood.
"Certainly St. Augustine should be thrilled that this very historic church is going to finally get back to where it was years ago," Mermell said.
Anderson said a city official told him restoration work could start this summer.
"I know it's just a moment of time when everybody's going to be back in the sanctuary," Anderson said. "And we are going to be having a good time worshiping and praise!"
Pastor Anderson said he never gave up hope that his church would stand once more.