CENTRE, Ala. (BP) — The small congregation of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Centre, Ala., has faced two life-changing obstacles in the past year. First its church building was largely destroyed by a tornado April 27, 2011. Then its pastor, Steve Tierce, was in a July 3 car accident that broke his neck and left him a paraplegic.
[[email protected]@180=‘God’s been great to us, and we’ve been really blessed.’ — Dennis Tierce]But “God’s been great to us, and we’ve been really blessed,” said Dennis Tierce, a deacon at the church and Steve Tierce’s cousin.
To enable the pastor to continue preaching intermittently, the church has fashioned a ramp that leads into the mobile chapel unit it’s using as a sanctuary since the tornado. Tierce is still on a ventilator and has a trach tube, but he has been able to deliver sermons in between his surgeries and extended rehabilitation time in Atlanta.
“One of the other deacons, he and his dad built a ramp to help Steve get into the mobile unit,” Dennis Tierce said. “They salvaged awnings and things from the old church and then built a ramp from it.”
The church is just beginning the process of tearing down the old building, which the EF4 tornado literally lifted off its foundation and set down again, and they hope to have the new one finished by the end of the year. The building — though it was remodeled in the mid-1950s — was constructed in 1896, so there is significant sentimentality attached to it.
“Some of the older members hated to see it go and I did, too,” Dennis Tierce said. “After all, I’ve been going to this church since I was a kid. There’s a lot of history there.”
Still, he said, the congregation seems excited for the new church to be built, and everyone is playing a role in the planning process.
“The morale of the people has been great,” said Patty Tierce, Steve Tierce’s wife. “Everyone has pitched in to help, and the community has been a blessing.”
Anna Keller is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, online at thealabamabaptist.org.