RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — A handful of Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies spent part of Wednesday afternoon supervising the eviction of the First Baptist Church of Riviera Beach, a cornerstone of the city's Haitian community for 75 years.
But the church has fallen on hard times in recent years, paying for expensive, but necessary repairs to fix code violations, then losing the property on what church lawyers called a deceptive loan several years ago.
After defaulting on that loan a decade ago, First Baptist parishioners continued to worship at the site as the church stayed open on a month-to-month lease.
Years of appeals resulted in another legal defeat last week, clearing the way for eviction.
For the first time in memory, there will be no services this Sunday.
As deputies supervised the eviction, the son of the church's pastor left feeling like he may have worshipped at First Baptist for the last time.
"I can't even think right now, but it's part of life,” said Himburton Altidor, who was asked if he thought he'd ever get his church back. "I don't know. With God, everything is possible."
Church attorneys filed paperwork in court to get an injunction to stop the property's new owners from demolishing the house of worship.
The property is a block from the Intracoastal Waterway.
It had been owned by a Miami company, which sold it in February for $1.3 million to a company affiliated with businessman Wayne Huizenga Jr.
At the site, a company representative would not say what if any plans the developer might have for the land.