Rome's First Christian Church on Second Avenue is hoping to get a concrete offer for its sanctuary and property before Christmas. The church has been on the market since late summer when the leadership and congregation decided it was becoming too expensive to maintain the 105-year-old church building.

"In a building of this age and this size there's always something," said Jane Slickman, interim board chairwoman.

She said the church's board of directors has been talking with a number of potential buyers, including one other church, Rome First United Methodist. The Rev. Scott Brown at FUMC said a congregational meeting has been called for Dec. 3 to allow the congregation to vote on whether or not it will make an offer for the First Christian property.

Brown said one idea for use of the First Christian building at 209 E. Second Ave. is for the development of a Serve Rome Center.

"There have been many conversations about having a consolidation of service — or nonprofit — ministries in Rome," Brown said.

"We have the Hospitality House, Good Neighbor/Action Ministries and Murphy-Harpst occupying two of the properties we own. We're hoping to consolidate many others of the nonprofit sector, whether they're church or religious related or not."

He said the First Christian property could provide a space for that, but was certainly not the only space.

First Christian was organized in 1896 with 12 members. The building on Second Avenue was constructed in 1912 with marble donated by Col. Sam Tate, president of Georgia Marble Co. Several train cars full of marble remnants were shipped to Rome.

"The stonemason put the scrap together so that it worked for the building, which is a great analogy for the kind of work that God does in our lives," Slickman said.

The exterior walls are 18 inches thick, and the downstairs was at one time certified as a fallout shelter.

"It's a pretty sturdy old place," Slickman said.

The congregation, which has dwindled to about 20 or less on any given Sunday, does continue to meet each week. Guest ministers, even members of the congregation, lead the worship services.

"We're working on a plan to continue the congregation in some way here in town. We're working with our regional minister, who comes up every month or so from Macon," Slickman said. The last pastor, Craig Mc-Donald, moved on to other opportunities at the end of the summer.

The church is being listed for $600,000.