A couple of years ago, as part of our Pop Pilgrims video series, we visited what we called “the sacred sites of R.E.M.’s Athens, Georgia,” including the locations where the front and back covers of Murmur were photographed and even the current location of the band’s offices. But perhaps most impressive was the steeple of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, where the band played its first show in April of 1980. The rest of the church was demolished long ago, but local sentiment—specifically because of the R.E.M. connection—kept the steeple standing, though it has fallen into serious disrepair. Enter Nuci’s Space, an Athens-based health and music resource center whose chief mission is suicide prevention. Local musicians, including members of R.E.M., are longtime supporters of Nuci’s Space, and its headquarters happen to be directly adjacent to the steeple.
You see where this is going. The recently launched Reconstruction Of The Steeple organization has twin goals of reconstructing the landmark and bringing more attention to Nuci’s Space, and dozens of area musicians have donated some amazing items whose purchase will help fund the work. Among the items available are three Rickenbacker guitars signed by all original members of R.E.M. and others, clothing worn on stage by Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, original pylon props used by Pylon, original art by Jim White, and various items signed by Neutral Milk Hotel and others. (Lots of photos are below.) You can check everything out at the funding site right here. Oh, and perhaps coolest: If you’re quick, you can own a brick from the steeple, one of many that had to be removed in order to start the reconstruction. Eventually, Nuci’s Space plans to use the renovated steeple as a quiet place to reflect, maybe with “Nightswimming” playing softly in the background on a loop. Visit quick, as this isn’t an auction, it’s a bunch of buy-it-now perks.