The Mississippi Baptist Convention bought prime Henderson Point real estate after World War II when it was no longer needed by Uncle Sam. At one point before the sale to the Baptists, the site near Pass Christian was used for training merchant mariners.|
The history of the sandy point goes back to the 19th century and is named after John Henderson, a nationally known lawyer and land developer.
The Baptists used the old Merchant Marine buildings until they were destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969. The convention put together a blue-ribbon panel of Mississippi Baptists to decide whether to rebuild. After much debate, they voted yes, with the stipulation it would be a modern building to withstand hurricanes.
The four-story Gulfshore Baptist Assembly built in the 1970s was imposing and could be seen by motorists on the Bay St. Louis Bridge. A swimming pool, beach, sleeping quarters, and a huge auditorium for retreats, summer camps and special training and religious programs beckoned the state's Baptists.
"The superstructure is there, the concrete floors, the support beams and wall studs, but everything was blown out by Katrina," said William Perkins, spokesman for the convention board. "It would take a massive rebuilding effort.
"The same kind of committee that formed after Camille has been formed again to make a decision about whether or not to rebuild Gulfshore. They will take a serious overall look at the entire state programs, need for locations and facilities.
"It is a prime opportunity for us to assess where we are and where we should be in the 21st century. The committee has not formally met, and it is too early to know what they will decide."
The convention has 2,110 church members in Mississippi, with 717,910 individual members, and it had three conference sites, including campgrounds in Clinton and Kosciusko. Before Katrina, Gulfshore was the most-used site.
- KAT BERGERON