December 17, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

An old country church in Tallahassee has really gone country! The Ole Gospel Tabernacle Church presents a folky appearance on Geddie Road as drivers approach the US 90 intersection. The original sanctuary probably dates from the 1920’s or 1930’s based on its wood frame structure and large double-hung windows. The modest foyer addition in front was most likely added in the 60’s or 70’s. But the real interest here is around the back of the church where several touring busses and an outdoor stage platform are used for a bluegrass gospel music park.

 Ole Gospel Tabernacle Church and sign.jpg

It is likely the current ministry isn’t the original congregation and perhaps purchased the property from a previous church. The old church is reasonably well kept, but The Ole Gospel Tabernacle clearly has a strong focus on music and the events at the park. There’s no church website or Facebook page that I could find but several sites listed the church location as a music venue!

 Bluegrass Stage.jpg

It is interesting to compare this church with the Turning Point International Church only a few miles away. One obvious difference is that Turning Point ministers primarily to the African American community. The Ole Gospel Tabernacle Church, a local source tells me, is a conservative white church.

 Bluegrass Garden Sign.jpg

To me, the more interesting difference, however, is the way these two groups have updated and adapted their original properties, and in particular, their old church steeples. The Turning Point ministry, as I noted in yesterday’s blog, got rid of its steeple altogether as part of a recent upgrade program. Even though the materials were modest - mostly roof work, plaster, and paint, the church exterior has been transformed with a cosmopolitan look with Caribbean and Miami colors and motifs.

 Ole Gospel Tabernacle Steeple.jpg

The Ole Gospel Tabernacle Church took a completely different approach. One can assume that there had been a steeple on the original church. Like many old roof structures, it probably deteriorated and was removed. Many churches, at that point would have opted to replace an old steeple with a pre-fabricated model. But this congregation had no use for such fineries. Someone went out to their workshop and fabricated a new structure for the bell. Simple steel tubes create the profile of an old steeple, but the frame is completely open. Except someone probably felt the metal frame on the roof wasn’t visible enough. So they added wood trellis material on four sides.

 Ole Gospel Tabernacle side elevation.jpg

The home-made steeple fits beautifully with other elements offering hints about this ministry. Bluegrass music, old tour busses, hand-lettered signs, American flags all contribute to a rustic image. This church is about pride of place and making due with what is readily available. That home-spun approach includes the signs out front for church’s main fundraiser, a cat fish fry.    

 The Ole Gospel Tabernacle Church is located at US-90 & Geddie Rd, Tallahassee, Florida

Worship Space/ Religious