Reed Dearing of Macclenny put senior St. Peter’s warden Sue Krall, also of Macclenny, on notice that it must vacate the property after services on Sunday. Mr. Dearing, a former local credit union executive and longtime Jacksonville area banker, said he would collect the keys and conduct an inventory ”” and that he was acting on authority of Bishop Johnson Howard.
“We obviously declined the ”˜request’ to take leave of the property at this time and in fact asked the Sheriff’s Office to watch the church building and prevent anyone from unlawfully entering without our permission,” said Ms. Krall in a memo this week to church members.
She characterized the “18-hour notice to depart” by Mr. Dearing as “less than gracious and certainly not in the spirit of working with fellow Christians…”
Ms. Krall termed Mr. Dearing’s ultimatum a surprise in light of a recent meeting with the diocese chancellor during which St. Peter’s sought 3-6 months for “a more planned, organized and reasonable departure.”
Mr. Dearing, for his part, backed off after St. Peter’s deacon Mike Webb requested time to re-set another meeting with the bishop’s representative and perhaps Rev. Howard. He was also confronted by Ms. Krall and Lin Taber of Glen St. Mary, whose family has been longtime members and benefactors of the church under both names.
“I was appalled it was carried out the way it was,” said Mr. Taber. “We want a reasonable amount of time and we still hadn’t heard anything official [from the Episcopal diocese] about vacating.”
The Episcopal church is one of the oldest denominations in Baker County, and before the Yellow Fever epidemic in the 1880s had a very prominent presence here. The former St. James was constructed about 50 years ago, though the property was deeded to the church in 1941.