ORLANDO, Fla. — The music pouring out of the fellowship hall at the church located in the historic community of Parramore at 921 Bentley Street in Orlando is powerful.
- Church leaders trying to restore Black Bottom House of Prayer
- They're trying to get the city to designate church as historic landmark
- Church has become dilapidated; many want to restore it
Churchgoers continue to give thanks inside The Black Bottom House of Prayer, even after their faith was tested after a call to save a piece of history.
On Wednesday, December 4, the church could have their prayers answered during the first step of a process to designate their church as a historic landmark.
The Historic Preservation Board is holding a public hearing about the issue at 4 p.m. at Orlando City Hall. Project Planner Richard Forbes told Spectrum News 13 it's a process, and the Orlando City Council will make the final decision.
Reverend Dana Jackson believes in miracles and says God led her to buy The Black Bottom House of Prayer with her own money.
"We thought it was abandoned, because it looked abandoned …,“ Jackson said.
Built in 1925, the church has seen better days. At one time, the church was named The Pleasant Hill Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, and then was later named Carter Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal before becoming The Black Bottom House of Prayer most recently.
The roof is dilapidated, there are cracks in the building and exposed wires.
"We prayed every day that the roof didn't fall into the floor,” Jackson said.
She says that the building is still standing, and that’s a miracle. The reverend says God kept his hand over the roof to cover them to be their tarp and their tent.
Praying for a Miracle
Church members are praying for another miracle besides the historical designation. Jackson is trying to restore the church to its full glory.
M.L. Glover, a regular visitor, remembers what the church once looked like.
“The way the building looks now. It looked nothing like it did forty and fifty years ago,” Glover said.
Today, walls crumble and wires need repair. The faithful few help pay the bills. Rev. Jackson doesn't earn a dime.
She laughed, "When they call for prayer, I don't say I'll assign you to a Deacon. I'll assign you to a Deaconess. I'm the Deacon, the Deaconess, the elder, the pastor, the preacher, the intercessor. I'm a one stop shop!"
Jackson says she gets by without salary thanks to a giving congregation.
"You know I have people that I prayed for that say pastor, I got a blessing for you — you prayed I got that job. So just unexpected blessings to be quite honest,” she said.
Meanwhile, M.L. Glover is expecting to see a comeback at the church. She has fond memories from when she would visit this church years ago.
"I'm thankful because God has raised up a young lady to fill in the gap, and if she was given more time -- given more support -- we'd see a miracle happening," Glover said.
Jackson says they need $250,000 just for a new roof over the sanctuary. Church services are only held twice a month now in the fellowship hall towards the back of the building. Restoring the sanctuary would mean more room for church goers so she could build her congregation.
"We have Valencia. We have UCF. All the buildup of downtown, and the bike riders and the new bicycles. It's so easy to get the place filled," she said.
Jackson says she has big plans too to draw people in by having speakers attached to the outside of the building to play uplifting gospel music 24 hours a day like they do at the mall she points out.
She is determined. Determined to keep on praying and keep giving thanks through it all.
"I know the heartache, and the pain, and the struggle. So we have a lot to be thankful for -- for community support -- the prayer of the elders. I'm thankful for my ancestors. They were people who did not give up even through the struggle -- even in poverty people prayed, and they brought their resources together," Jackson said.
People continue to come together at The Black Bottom House of Prayer dancing and celebrating their faith inside the humble house of God. Meanwhile, Jackson says don't be fooled by the cracks on the outside. She sees a strong foundation with a message that she wants everyone to hear.
"Even when people sit at their Thanksgiving table eating their dinner, just give God thanks for wherever you are in life because, this is not the end," she said.
If you'd like to make donations to The Black Bottom House of Prayer, you can mail checks to Black Bottom House of Prayer at P.O. Box 547882, Orlando, Florida 32854 made payable to Black Bottom House of Prayer.
You can also make donations by using the cash app $Blackbottomprayer. Rev. Jackson says anyone wanting to help the church can call or text her directly at 407-285-0415.