New Plaza Honors One VaHi Woman’s Church Membership of Almost a Century

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By Sue G. Collins

When Blanche Reynolds turned 90-something (she’ll never tell!), more than 120 friends sang to her in three-part harmony with an organ backing them up.  It was glorious and she beamed.

Their gift to her wasn’t quite complete yet, though, and couldn’t be wrapped anyways. Her friends, the diverse congregation of Virginia-Highland Church, will dedicate a newly designed, more accessible and neighborhood-friendly front plaza to her, the church’s longest worshipping member.

Blanche Reynolds

“We are excited to honor Miss Blanche Reynolds by rebuilding the plaza and naming it for her and her nearly one century of membership in this church,” said Reverend Michael Piazza. “Four years ago, the wood around the windows in the Virginia-Highland Church sanctuary was rotting, and a window fell out of the steeple, crashing to the sidewalk below. The air conditioning in the sanctuary had failed, as had the water heater and the roof of the education building. Although the church was still extremely small, we rallied together, pledged our money, and took out a loan with the United Church of Christ’s Building and Loan Fund and did quite a bit of the work needed to repair the building.  In a building as old as ours, there still is a lot to be done, but the one major project we have not completed is making the building accessible to everyone. This is important because it is something we value and a true expression of who we are.”

The work is nearly done, with the broken concrete, uneven steps, missing handrails replaced to better serve those with mobility issues. There will be a ramp to access the door nearest the street on the east side of the building. The driveway between the church and parsonage (the brick house just east of the church) will be repaired and repaved. A lift will be installed that will ascend half a floor to the sanctuary and descend half a floor to the fellowship hall, making most of the building accessible to everyone. The downstairs restrooms will be made unisex and accessible with two non-gender-specific private restrooms, and two gender-specific restrooms. 

The total cost for the project is just over $100,000. “We are proud to be a part of such a vibrant and historic neighborhood and hope that the newly configured space will be used by neighbors at their leisure,” said Piazza.

Virginia-Highland Church is a progressive and inclusive community of faith in the heart of the city that gave us such civil rights heroes as Nobel Peace Prize-winners Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Jimmy Carter. This church seeks to embody the values of justice and peace for which they both worked so hard. The congregation stood up for the inclusion of women, and lesbian, gay, and transgender folks. As a result, we had to give up our place in the Southern Baptist and Georgia Baptist Conventions. Courage such as that should be honored. We continue to expand a deep commitment to inclusion. The 11am Sunday  worship service is interpreted in American Sign Language.

You can learn more about the Virginia-Highland Church at our website.

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