A recent Protestant wedding at Sacred Heart Cultural Center in downtown Augusta (Catholics aren't allowed to be married here!). Please note the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes to the left of the altar! Saint Joseph is to the right of the altar. A statue of the Sacred Heart is dead center in the old high altar and stain glass windows are from the Meyer company of Munich, Germany!
It was purchased by an Augusta area philanthropist Peter Knox in 1986 (having been vacant for 16 years and in such a mess, one would have thought it should have been torn down) who then restored it as a community cultural center maintaining its original name, Sacred Heart, but now not Catholic Church, but cultural center.
When the Diocese of Savannah sold the property in 1986, it included not only the church, but a huge three story rectory behind it, an elementary school building and large convent next to it. How much was it all sold for in 1986? For about $250,000! The stain glass windows and marble art work are worth more than that!
None of the altars, statues, windows, stations of the cross, etc were removed! The only things taken were the pews which went to my former parish six blocks away, The Church of the Most Holy Trinity.
It is used today for all kinds of things, weddings in particular (although Catholics are not allowed to use it for weddings, which is really, really dumb)!
Now it is being used as a non-denominational "Electric Cathedral." Please note the story below the pictures from Saturday's Augusta Chronicle:
By Lisa Kaylor Staff Writer
The altar at Sacred Heart Cultural Center glowed a hot pink Monday as the strains of Michael Jackson’s Beat Itechoed off the ornate domed ceiling.
Ryan Abel belted out the familiar 1980s pop tune as 20- and 30-somethings in jeans and T-shirts moved from socializing to taking their seats, and the lights began to dim.
Abel promised a crisp $50 bill to the winner of a social-media contest in which guests were asked to take a selfie with a friend and upload it to Twitter or Instagram.
Then the Electric Cathedral began in earnest.
The service marked the one-year anniversary of the para-church. Brandon May, the pastor of the new Illuminate Church – which meets at Westside High School – gave the message, in which he likened the power of the Holy Spirit in each saved person to the power of Grayskull in the old He-Man cartoons.
After the service – or “gathering,” the preferred term for the monthly meeting – guests were served anniversary cupcakes before many of them went to Whiskey Bar Kitchen for dinner and more informal socializing.
“(Electric Cathedral) was started by four guys who just met and wanted to do something for young professionals in their 20s and 30s,” said Abel, the executive director.
Abel, who is on the staff at Wesley United Methodist Church, said he and friends from other churches realized it was difficult to establish a ministry to reach that particular demographic at each church.
The area doesn’t have a large enough population to support several ministries that cater to young professionals, he said.
So they combined efforts and created an organization with its own board of directors and bylaws through which any church wishing to partner with them could benefit.
Seven churches are partners with Electric Cathedral. They support the ministry financially and through prayer and participation.
The partner churches encompass a variety of denominations. One of Electric Cathedral’s goals is to break down denominational barriers and the territorial nature sometimes perceived among churches.
Attending on Mondays doesn’t interfere with more traditional worship times, and it’s less intimidating to invite someone to a gathering on Monday night than asking them to attend a worship service at another church, Abel said.
He said the parachurch also wants to reach young professionals who are not plugged into a church and help them find a church home. Electric Cathedral introduces them to many churches, preaching styles and peers to help them find a place to feel comfortable.
It also encourages other churches to work together. For example, through Electric Cathedral, Brandon May, who was new to the area, met John Kenney, the pastor of Quest Church in Martinez. Kenney offered the use of space at Quest for planning and other resources to help May launch Illuminate earlier this month.
“That’s a huge win for me and Electric Cathedral,” Abel said.
He also wants to support downtown businesses through the parachurch, so as the congregation grows, additional activities might be planned at downtown restaurants and businesses.
Kelsey Bensen, 25, and Sarah Hanes, 28, have been coming from the beginning. They are friends with some of the organizers.
Hanes said she loves the music and the people, and Benson likes the environment. “The message is really good,” Hanes said.
Sisters Lakrista Davis, 25, and Lakeiba Davis, 29, drive from Aiken every month to attend.
Lakrista heard about Electric Cathedral from her pastor, Terrance Thomas, of Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church in Fairfax, S.C., when he came to preach one Monday four months ago. She has been coming ever since.
“The fellowship is amazing,” she said. “It’s just a great group of young people. Everybody’s so welcoming. We don’t have to worry about feeling left out or different.”
Lakeiba attended Monday for the second time and has already joined the volunteer staff.
“Catering to that age bracket, it gets that young group out there. So many, they’re stuck on, when they go to church they want that laid-back setting. (Electric Cathedral) gives you that laid-back setting, but at the same time, they’re teaching. … the worship is awesome.”
Electric Cathedral will take a break in April for the Masters Tournament and return May 11 at 7:30 p.m. in a new, as yet undisclosed location. Visit the Electric Cathedral Facebook page for new information.