Historic church a total loss from tornado, but elders commit to rebuild and restore

Published 5:23 pm Thursday, January 19, 2023

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By Travis Gupton

The Selma Times-Journal

Built in 1878, Reformed Presbyterian Church on J.L. Chestnut Blvd., is one of the most historic churches in Selma, and with the structure a total loss from last Thursday’s tornado.

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Former Selma Mayor George Evans is an Elder at the church and has grown up within the walls of the historic building, and shed a few tears when talking about the devastation that was before him.

“I’m just torn as it relates to what has gone on based on the fact that this church has been here all my childhood life and my adulthood,” Evans said. “It’s just something that certainly, that you can’t explain. It’s hard to swallow from the standpoint of what devastation the tornado did to this particular community and our church community. We accept the fact that no lives were lost and we are trying to do a job of recovery from the standpoint of this church. It seems like a dream, but it’s not, it’s reality and at this point, we are just trying to make a decision of where do we go from here.”

With the church being not suitable for worship, one of the first things the Elders and the Deacons had to decide was what to do about having worship services while the church is being rebuilt.

“We met as a committee of Deacons and Elders mainly and talked about coming up with an action plan as to where do we go from here in terms of getting the coverage,” Evans said. “We talked to our insurance agent who was here on Saturday to give us information about our coverage, and the question came up then that we have got to get the debris moved from the church grounds so they can do a true assessment of our property so they can let us know how much we are entitled to from insurance coverage.”

While the church leadership determines next steps in getting the church rebuilt, Evans said they are working on an alternate place for churchgoers to worship together, with services this Sunday being held in the Selma University cafeteria.

“We talked about the future of having church and Sunday school and Bible study and we are working on doing that and having our regular church service at another location,” Evans said.  “We do plan, this coming Sunday, have our regular Sunday school lesson at 10 a.m. and church at 11 a.m. We will do that. We will meet again next Wednesday to assess where we are now in terms of how much we have been able to do on the property list.”

Greg Woodson is treasurer at the church, but was not in Selma when the tornado came through. When he saw the damage it hit him hard.

“When I got a chance to go over to town that Friday I saw the building and it just threw me back,” Woodson said. “I had been up there on Wednesday putting the trash out and I had planned on going back out to put the garbage cans back out into the yard that Thursday morning because the trash gets picked up Thursday morning. It’s just amazing how things can happen so quickly as far as Selma was intact one day and our church was intact one day and then gone the next in a matter of minutes.”

After the tornado hit, the outpouring of help that has come the way of the church has been amazing according to Woodson.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Woodson said. “People have been wanting to come from all over. We had a gentleman come from Louisiana who came up and just gave us $1,000 just like that for the benefit of the church. He was a pastor of a church in Louisiana. It just soothes my heart and warms my heart to know that there are people out there who are so kind and just want to help on a whim.”