Church repairs ongoing

Fran Welch, head custodian of First Baptist Church in Morehead City, sweeps a section of the church’s education building Tuesday that was damaged during Hurricane Florence. (Cheryl Burke photo)

This story is part of an ongoing anniversary series on Hurricane Florence, which struck in September 2018, and the storm’s lingering effects on Carteret County and its residents.

HARKERS ISLAND — It’s been one year since churches across the county felt the harsh impacts of Hurricane Florence.

From Down East to Morehead City, many congregations are still unable to meet in their sanctuaries, which were destroyed by heavy rains, winds and floodwater from the Category 1 storm that struck the county Sept. 13-14, 2018.

It’s common to see pastors, like Pastor Manley Rose of Refuge Fellowship Church on Harkers Island, wearing tool belts and aprons as they help repair their buildings.

Pastor Rose’s church had an estimated $200,000 worth of damage when rain came through the roof, causing the ceiling to collapse. Since that time, his congregation has been meeting in the church’s fellowship hall. Insurance is covering most of the repairs and renovations.

“It will be several more months before we are finished with our sanctuary,” Mr. Rose said Tuesday as he worked on framing at the entrance into the sanctuary. “We have added a cathedral ceiling, balcony and we’ll be adding stained glass windows.”

While it’s been a rough road for Pastor Rose and his congregation, he said the damage will turn into a blessing in the end.

“It’s going to be like a new church. All the flooring in here will be new, too,” he said. “It’s made us excited about the new things that we are doing in the church, and that has helped our attendance.”

Davis Free Will Baptist Church Pastor Jimmy Mercer also said while it’s been tough to deal with the flooding and damage to his church, he believes it will turn to a blessing. His congregation currently meets at the Davis Volunteer Fire Department.

As well as bringing about 6 inches of water into the Davis church, the Category 1 winds ripped off the flat roof of the church’s second floor, causing severe water damage to much of the building.

The church also flooded in previous hurricanes, which prompted the congregation to decide to use insurance money to raise their two-story brick church 40 inches. The raising took place in February of this year.

Raising the church is part of a larger renovation project, which includes constructing new porches, ramps and steps, removing the steeple, replacing the flat roof with a pitched roof and completing interior renovations.

Pastor Mercer said the estimated cost of repairs is about $250,000. He didn’t have a date for when work would be finished.

“I have given up on trying to set a date because we expect contractors to show up one day, and they don’t,” he said. “We’re waiting on electrical to be back on. When trusses arrive we’ll start on a flat roof in a few weeks.”

While it’s been a test of patience, Pastor Mercer said knowing the building is raised gives him peace of mind.

“When (Hurricane) Dorian came through (earlier this month), my heart broke for all the churches in our area I thought might flood,” Pastor Mercer said. “I wasn’t worried that ours would flood again.”

He added that he is thankful for the patience of his congregation.

“We’re all getting through it the best we can. Nobody has been grumbling. We all can get frustrated, but we realize it takes time,” Pastor Mercer said. “We’re still doing good, but it will be nice to get back in our church.”

Another church that took a hit during Florence was First Baptist Church in Morehead City. The church’s education building flooded when part of the roof’s rubber membrane peeled back, allowing water to pour in. Several inches of water came in, and windows were broken.

It was a particularly hard for First Baptist because officials were in the middle of a $2.6 million renovation and building project at the time.

Pastor Darryl Williams estimates damages to the church at about $1.2 million. Since Florence, the congregation temporarily met at First United Methodist Church in Morehead City, then moved their services into the First Baptist Family Life Center.

The congregation continues to meet in the Family Life Center.

“The education building still has a way to go to get back up and running,” Pastor Williams said. “It’s still down to concrete floors and studs.”

Pastor Williams is hopeful the education building will be finished in December. He also anticipates renovations to the church’s sanctuary will be completed sometime this fall.

Many other churches are still completing repairs as well. Repairs are underway to the youth building at Glad Tidings Church in Morehead City, which was flooded when the metal roof peeled off.

Parkview Baptist Church in Morehead City, which sustained $1 million worth of damage, is hoping to reopen its sanctuary by the end of September after rain poured through the roof into the buildings during Florence.

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