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Central Baptist Church Rebuilds After Destruction by Tornado

Posted: 3/8/18 at 7:45am.

In February 2016, a devastating tornado hit Appomattox, leaving a 13-mile path of destruction including the loss of more than 200 homes and two church buildings. One of those churches was Central Baptist Church, a BGAV congregation which was built in 1893 in the community of Chap. On Sunday, January 28, 2018, Central Baptist Church held a dedication ceremony in its newly rebuilt sanctuary at the same site that was covered in debris and rubble just two years earlier.

The new church building is a tangible, visible testimony to what a community can do when it comes together around one goal as a response to a tragedy. Virginia Baptists were an important part of that community, especially in the beginning stages. When the tornado first occurred, BGAV Disaster Response teams were some of the first to arrive in Appomattox. Volunteers worked alongside members of the community to clean up and provide critical resources to those who were affected.

While the members of Central Baptist Church recovered from the destruction and made plans for the future, the Appomattox Baptist Association hosted the congregation—allowing them to meet for worship and Bible study in their office building. The association also raised funds for the rebuild, and several local churches donated generously toward the effort. Many local companies donated time and materials to the rebuilding effort as well. Before they signed a contract with the construction company, all the money for the project had come in—from donors throughout Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Texas. The church members were amazed at how many people reached out to help. Donations, along with an insurance settlement, yielded about $550,000 for them to use toward construction of a new facility.

The new church building can accomplish with just 3,700 square feet what the old building did when it had 5,700 square feet. It can perform the same functions because the new, much more modern facility is multi-functional. It has partitions, for example, that allow for sectioning off rooms for Sunday School. The congregation will also be able to save money because of several improvements like additional insulation and a new heating and cooling system that is more efficient. Construction also allowed for the addition of a new sound system and other modern technology that wasn’t present in the old building.

Not everything at the church is brand new, however. The church was able to preserve several elements of their heritage from items they recovered from the original building. Wood salvaged from the original structure was used to make wainscoting for the new sanctuary, and the original communion table, pulpit, chairs, and some light fixtures were cleaned and restored for use in the new building. An important portrait of Jesus Christ that had hung in the old church was damaged, but it has been restored and now is once again on display. Most of the stained glass windows were repaired and reused, which was done at no cost to the church by the stained glass company that originally made them.

Between in-kind donations, volunteer labor, donations, and insurance funds, the church was able to build the new facility without using any of their cash reserves or going into debt. They held their first worship service in the new building on November 26, 2017, which was less than a year after the reconstruction began. The first wedding in the new church took place on December 30. Their dedication service in January was a joyous time of celebration; the community came together to witness God’s faithfulness among the people who’ve served and worshipped there for so many years.

This article appears in the Spring edition of the BGAV Express.

Watch the video taken just days after the tornado struck in 2016: