Explosion at Tuscaloosa church sparks revivalcomment (0)
December 14, 2006
By Jeremy Dale Henderson
Nearly five months after a devastating explosion, college ministry leaders at Calvary Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, are amazed — in the tragedy’s aftermath, a revival has caught fire among college students.
On July 19, Calvary Baptist’s across-the-street annex was virtually destroyed when an intruder accidentally triggered a natural gas explosion, injuring himself in the process.
According to Calvary’s College Minister Ben Pilgreen, there are no plans to rebuild.
Many of the ministry’s leaders, including student leader Kaylie Patrick, feel the relocation of the college ministry’s popular Wednesday night service, known as The Well, may have been part of God’s working something painful for good.
“I don’t think God’s necessarily in the business of blowing up buildings, but I definitely think that there were maybe reasons for this happening,” Patrick said, reasons that might explain, say, a 116 percent increase in attendance.
According to Pilgreen, the ministry was already seeing God do some neat things before the explosion like more students coming in the summer, which is usually a down time.
“It might sound spiritually cliché, but we just feel like it’s been a movement of God,” he said. “The band’s the same. I’m still teaching. It’s not like we’re really doing anything different.”
While many initially feared the blast would cripple the ministry’s momentum, the opposite occurred.
“Last year, we averaged 155 students at The Well, and … with two Wednesday nights left (in the semester), we’re averaging 334. I mean there was some publicity and everything, but I don’t think sympathy gets people out every week,” Pilgreen said.
After first shopping for surrogate space at hotels, theaters and even the buildings of other ministries in order to keep things alive, a simple and inexpensive decision was made to house the ministry in the family life center of the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association church — led by Pastor Walter Jackson.
“It allows us to get more people inside,” Alan Henderson, Calvary’s associate college minister, said of the gymnasium space. “But I think the biggest thing is that our leaders have gotten on board with the vision that God has given us. We’d love to tell you that it was something we were doing, but we can’t put our finger on any one thing. Our student leaders have just gotten excited … and passionate about bringing their friends.”
Despite the successes coming in the wake of the past summer’s circumstances, Henderson is hesitant to think of the incident behind the ministry as a blessing in disguise.
“I don’t know if we would use those words because there was someone that was hurt in the explosion and our first concern was for him,” he said.
“But obviously God knew this was going to happen and knew the growth was going to happen long before we did.”