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The PC(USA) church that became a library

The former Clinton Presbyterian Church in Louisiana now serves its community as a public library

by Bill Williamson | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Patsy Jackson, the last clerk of session of Clinton Presbyterian Church in Clinton, Louisiana, speaks at the dedication of the Audubon Regional Library. (Photo by Bill Williamson)

“I was glad to see that the church building has become a library to serve the community,” said Sara Jean Jackson as she attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Audubon Regional Library in Clinton, Louisiana, a town of 1,275 people about 45 minutes northeast of Baton Rouge.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was the culmination of the transformation of what had been the Clinton Presbyterian Church into a library to serve the community.  The library has additional branches in the nearby Louisiana towns of Jackson and Greensburg.

The Clinton church was founded in 1855 but had been losing members for years. With four members remaining in 2020, the congregation made the difficult decision to close its doors.  The church building was given to the city, which then made it into a space for the town library.

Jackson was present at the ribbon-cutting, along with her siblings Paul, Nancy and Patsy. All four grew up in Clinton and attended the church. Their parents, Paul and Mittie Jackson, had come to Clinton early in their marriage and had made sure that all four children attended the church regularly.

From left, the Jackson siblings, Paul, Sara Jean, Nancy, and Patsy, are pictured at the dedication of the Audubon Regional Library The renovated building retained the stained-glass windows from the former Clinton Presbyterian Church. (Photo by Bill Williamson)

The four Jackson children continue to be active members of Presbyterian churches. Sara Jean and Paul are members of St. Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. Patsy was the last clerk of session of the Clinton church, and now attends Pines Presbyterian Church in Houston. Nancy and her retired minister husband, Bill Williamson, attend Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  Nancy and Bill were married in the Clinton church.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), like many other mainline denominations, has seen the closure of some of its smaller churches. When a church closes, the question becomes what to do with the now-vacant building. Former church buildings have been reconditioned and turned into restaurants, event centers, and even private residences.

The members of the former Clinton church were glad that their church was turned into a library.  “It was a bittersweet day,” said Patsy Jackson, who guided the transfer of the property to the city. “Of course we were saddened to see this church close its doors after it had meant so much to our family and many others. But on the day of the ribbon-cutting, we saw children playing and reading books, adults conversing, poems being read, and a community coming together.”

“It’s not church,” she said, “but it’s close.”

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