Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta held its final service Sunday with a commemorative march to make way for a new multibillion stadium set to be built in the city's downtown area.
"Of course, there are a lot of feelings, a lot of memories that we will forever cherish and be thankful to God that he allowed us to have this experience," said Rev. Rodney Turner, reports CBS Atlanta. "But we are excited about what's next."
Turner notes that the church has to be cleared out by the end of the week as construction has already begun in areas nearby. The congregation will temporarily hold services at Carver Bible College in southwest Atlanta beginning next Sunday while they search for a permanent worship site. However, Turner hopes they can eventually return to their neighborhood where they have been for nearly a century.
Back in September, church leaders and members voted on a resolution to sell their church site to the city for $14.5 million. Prior to reaching a deal, the city offered Mount Vernon $6.2 million which they considered an "insult."
At that time, the church had asked for $20.4 million but Atlanta city officials said their offer aligned with a state law that prevented them from going higher than the church building's appraised value. While the majority of the congregation voted for the sale, others opposed on the grounds that the city was destroying the history of their church.
Friendship Baptist Church, another church with historic ties that sits directly across from Mount Vernon, also struck a deal with Atlanta to sell its site for nearly $20 million.
"I think it's an abomination in the sight of God for the city and the Falcons to consider bringing down two historic black churches for a stadium for a second-rate football team," said Vickie Johnson, a member of Mount Vernon, according to Atlanta-based WSB-TV.
Currently, the Atlanta Falcons play at the Georgia Dome but the city hopes the new stadium, set to feature a retractable roof, will attract new marquee events to the city and state.
The team hopes to break ground in their retractable-roof stadium in the fall 2017.