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Where are they now? 2013comment (0)

April 25, 2013

On April 27, 2011, nearly 50 Alabama Baptist churches were damaged or destroyed. The next four pages represent 15 of the most heavily damaged churches and where they are now. Many of them are celebrating the completion of new buildings, while others are still in the rebuilding process.

*Boone’s Chapel Baptist and Faith Chapel Baptist were hit April 15, 2011.


Concord Highland Baptist Church, Hueytown

Concord Highland Baptist Church, Hueytown, marked its first service in its new church building Easter Sunday 2013. The former church facilities were destroyed when a tornado hit April 27, 2011. The tornado removed the entire back side and steeple of Concord Highland’s building and all the windows were blown out. 

The church broke ground on its new building May 2012, and Pastor Richard Larson noted the building was completed a couple of weeks before Easter Sunday. The new building is located across the street from the former building, and the sanctuary seats about 250. 

The first service in the new building, which includes the sanctuary, fellowship hall and classrooms, had an overflow crowd. “It was just a fantastic day,” Larson said.

To celebrate the opening, the church held an open house April 14 and invited people from the community to visit the new building. 

In addition, a dedication service will be held April 28 at 11 a.m. 

According to Larson, many people who helped Concord Highland rebuild will attend.  


Boone’s Chapel Baptist Church, Prattville*

A tornado hit First Baptist Church, Albertville, when Mike Johnson was serving as its pastor in 2010. He moved to Boone’s Chapel Baptist Church, Prattville, and four months later — April 15, 2011 — it too was hit by a tornado.

It’s been hard — especially the death of some of the church’s neighbors during the storm — but God has been good in the midst of heartache, Johnson said.

“The Lord provided a quantum leap for this church,” he said of Boone’s Chapel Baptist. “It would’ve taken us a decade without the storm to accomplish what’s been done in a year’s time.”

After the storm took out the sanctuary — which the church was already beginning to outgrow — it began meeting in its multipurpose building, which survived the storm.

“Before, 200 was pretty much our max in attendance,” Johnson said. “But recently we had to order 450 pew chairs, and we’re running two worship services.”

Much of that growth is due to the new preschool and children’s space the church was able to build after the tornado, he said.

“We chose to go that direction because we as a church are pretty heavy in ministering to the community,” he said. “We have gained a lot of new families through this.”

And the church is baptizing new adult members “at least about every other week,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of people coming to faith in Christ.”

The church dedicated its new facility April 14. 

“It’s unbelievable,” Johnson said of all that’s happening at Boone’s Chapel. “It’s the Lord’s doing.”


Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, Centre

Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, Centre, has seen a lot of tragedy in the past two years. Its building was largely destroyed by an EF4 tornado that lifted the building off its foundation and set it down again.

That was April 27, 2011.

On July 3, 2011, Pastor Steve Tierce was paralyzed in a car accident.

And Feb. 1 of this year he passed away.

Tierce’s wife, Patty, said the outpouring of love from the community and church family has been “amazing” during the difficult time of recovery and in her husband’s passing.

For now, Pilgrim Rest Baptist continues to meet in a mobile chapel provided by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

The church is planning to rebuild soon.


Mamre Baptist Church, Wellington

Mamre Baptist Church had only been in its brand new building two years when a tornado demolished it April 27, 2011.

Not to be discouraged, the church rebuilt — a replica of the same building — and dedicated it in November of the same year.

In the time since, the church has constructed a Christian life center and an awning to connect it with the main building, both of which were completed in the last couple of months.


Emmanuel Baptist Church, Hackleburg

After an EF5 tornado destroyed Emmanuel Baptist Church, Hackleburg, the congregation and Pastor Gene Thomas decided they weren’t going anywhere. The church rebuilt, with the help of several volunteers and Carpenters for Christ, and dedicated their 5,000-square-foot building in November 2012. 

Since then, the church has welcomed new members and baptized three new believers, Thomas said. 

“We’re doing good. … The Lord has blessed us,” he said. “People are enjoying the facility and the (new) building. Some of us still stand in awe about what we’ve got and how we got it. We haven’t forgotten that God used a lot of people to do this for us.” 

Emmanuel Baptist’s van ministry, which began after a van was donated to the church in 2012, runs every Sunday and picks up about 12 adults and children for Sunday morning services. 

Thomas said the church also is looking forward to Vacation Bible School and a new sports ministry in summer 2013. 


Cullman First Baptist Church

By the first anniversary of the tornado, First Baptist Church, Cullman, had replaced the roof, ceilings, walls and stained-glass windows destroyed in its sanctuary by the storm. The tower for WCQT Channel 27 was rebuilt, and the gymnasium roof was repaired. 

Now the last piece is in place — a new steeple, completed in fall 2012.


Faith Chapel Baptist Church, Marion*

After the April 15, 2011, tornado hit Faith Chapel Baptist Church, Marion, the church had to postpone the renovations and additions it had been planning for several years in order to focus on making repairs.

But after May 2011 repairs were complete and the church continued with its plans to renovate and add on to the existing building. Now the fellowship hall, classroom, kitchen, dining area and two handicap accessible bathrooms are nearly complete. 

Pastor Lloyd Stockman said the new addition should be finished by mid-May and a dedication service will follow.

Stockman said previous years of Vacation Bible School (VBS) had to be held outside under tents due to a lack of space but the church is ready to have its first VBS inside the building this summer with the extra 1,500 square feet it will have when the addition is complete. 

Alberta Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa

The rebuild of Alberta Baptist’s building is “in the relatively early stages,” but it’s “coming along good,” said Pastor Larry Corder.

After an EF4 tornado basically destroyed the church’s facilities two years ago, Alberta members took 40 days to pray and seek God’s direction on whether to relocate, merge with another facility or rebuild on the same spot.

“We decided that if we didn’t go back to Alberta, there would be a void there,” Corder said. “We have been able to meet a lot of needs (after the tornado), and it has broken down a lot of barriers in the community.”

The church has spent a lot of time moving soil and preparing the new building’s foundation, he said. Footings have been poured, and the support columns are up for the new sanctuary.

The church hopes to be in its new building debt-free sometime in January or February of 2014.


East Side Baptist Church, Cullman

East Side Baptist Church, Cullman, is weeks away from moving into its new nearly 21,000-square-foot facility. 

After the previous building was demolished in an April 27, 2011, tornado, East Side Baptist began meeting in Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church, Cullman. 

East Side sold its old property and bought new land to build on. The new building, complete with “ample bathrooms and a large fellowship gathering area” is set to be complete around June 1. East Side will host several events as the church “reintroduces” itself to the community, Pastor Ken Allen said, including a dedication service June 23; a family weekend June 29; an open house July 14 and a return to regular services and Bible studies July 21.

Allen said the major thing that happened after the tornado was the opportunity to “go back to the basics” of what the Bible says about church. “We really have been able to cast a new vision and go back to the biblical meaning of what it means to make disciples,” Allen said.


Fultondale First Baptist Church

The roof on the south side of First Baptist Church, Fultondale, was torn off in the April 27, 2011, tornadoes. The church also lost its steeple and all of its windows on that fateful day. 

But that did not deter the congregation from rebuilding and moving forward, even while they were without a pastor. 

In September 2012, First, Fultondale, called Mika Marcum as the new pastor and continued to transform the church inside and out as they began to “wipe the church of the ‘used to,’” Marcum said.

A new welcome center, offices and Sunday School rooms were completed in March 2013 and a multipurpose room, more offices and some landscaping are close to being finished. 

The church plans to hold a dedication service in late May. 


Mount Hebron East Baptist Church, Eclectic

Only the foundation slab from the fellowship hall was left at Mount Hebron East Baptist Church, Eclectic, after an EF4 tornado hit its buildings April 27, 2011.

The church had to start over, and they “accepted the challenge and had the vision,” Pastor Bob Williamson said.

Instead of building a 60-seat sanctuary like before, they built one that seats 140.

“We have more Sunday School rooms than we did, and we have a baptistry and paved parking, two things we didn’t have before,” Williamson said.

People from six states have donated money, and “a lot” of Alabama churches have stepped up to help with the rebuilding.

“It’s been a coming together of God’s people to see the church built back so it can do ministry out there,” Williamson said.

The church will dedicate its new sanctuary April 28.


Stamp Baptist Church, Valley Head

Stamp Baptist Church, Valley Head, was back in its repaired sanctuary less than a year after a tornado damaged its buildings. It also completed a fellowship hall before the first anniversary of the storm.

“We’re back to normal in that respect,” said church member Tyler Pair. “We are stronger now than before.”

But they haven’t forgotten the brutal storm. “We had a member pass away because of it,” Pair said.

Stamp Baptist will remember her during its regular church services for the second anniversary of the tornado, as it did last year.


Mountain View Baptist Church, Phil Campbell

Two years after an EF5 tornado wiped out three of its buildings, Mountain View Baptist Church, Phil Campbell, is “working hard to bring our rebuild to completion,” said Pastor Sammy Taylor.

The goal is not far away, as the church sign and steeple have just been added to the finished building. Builders for Christ under the direction of Lawrence Corley provided most of the labor. The church is waiting on dry weather to pave the parking lot. 


Wellington First Baptist Church

Members of First Baptist Church, Wellington, breathed a sigh of relief when a tornado passed by to the north a few weeks ago.

The tornado that destroyed its building April 27, 2011, was the second to hit the church in the last three years, and they were thankful there wasn’t a third — especially since they had just dedicated their new building in November.

“We got it completed, and we’re doing well,” said church member Julia Heathcock.

The church had been meeting in the family life center — which was untouched by the 2011 tornado — ever since the storm. “It’s good to be back in the sanctuary,” Heathcock said.


Mountain View Baptist Church, Sylvania

Only rubble was left when a tornado hit Mountain View Baptist Church, Sylvania, but less than a year later, they dedicated a new building.

And now, the church is celebrating more than just a new building — it’s celebrating a “wonderful spurt of growth,” said church member Deborah Greeson. “We’re doing great.” 

Mountain View Baptist has added 19 new members since Oct. 1, 2012, Greeson said.

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