By Rick Palsgrove
It was a flood unlike any other in the history of Asbury United Methodist Church South, a congregation that first formed in 1806.
On March 20, 2020, more than 3 inches of torrential rain poured down in a short period of time, flooding nearby creeks, streams, fields, homes, and yards throughout the area.
The water surrounded the church and its parking lot, located at 4760 Winchester Pike in Madison Township, and flowed into and swamped the building. Flood waters a foot deep or more reached inside the 55-year-old church’s sanctuary severely damaging the chancel/altar, wooden pews, flooring, carpeting, and more.
Volunteers swiftly arrived at the church following the flood to salvage what could be saved from the waters and to clean up the mess it left behind. But it would take several months to complete the structural renovations to repair the flood damage.
Now, a year later – through the efforts of community volunteers, community groups, members of the congregation, the Methodist Church district, neighboring churches, the Boy Scouts, and many more – the church has been resurrected from the flood damage as repairs are nearly complete.
Asbury United Methodist Church South Pastor Sherri Blackwell, who started her position at the church last Nov. 1, is impressed by the outpouring of community support.
“It’s the definition of community,” said Blackwell.
Added Asbury United Methodist Church South Staff Parish Chair Diana Sexton, “It’s amazing how people come together to help during a tragedy. It was a huge community effort.”
Sexton estimated the amount of flood damage at about $75,000, which includes the costs of renovations and removing mold caused by the standing water. The repair costs were funded by donations.
“Everything is cleaned and sanitized,” said Sexton. “There’s new carpeting, new electric, concrete poured under the sanctuary floor, new drywall, the pews were taken out and sanded and re-coated and put back in place, and the organ is being worked on as its controls under the floor were damaged by the flood.”
Blackwell said the original hope was to have the repairs fully completed and to hold a rededication service on Easter.
“But we’re not there yet,” said Blackwell. “We are hoping to have our rededication service in May.”
In the mean time, services are being held in the church’s Fellowship Hall and outdoors in the parking lot. Services may also be viewed online on YouTube.
Blackwell said a hidden blessing from the flood damage is that it enabled the church to include updates to its technology and sound systems, as well as expand the chancel area as part of the renovations.
“The chancel area is expanded and a ramp added,” said Blackwell. “Buildings evolve and now the church is even more welcoming.”
Sexton said adding the ramp to the chancel area helps make the church more inclusive for members of the congregation who have trouble using steps.
“Also the expanded chancel will allow everyone to be able to see and hear things better during services, such as with our ‘children’s moment.’ The piano can now be placed up on the chancel, too.”
Blackwell said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic also presented the church with opportunities “to rethink how we do church.”
“We can use technology for recordings and livestreaming to reach different and more people in new ways,” said Blackwell. “It’s exciting to see. We live in a technological age and we can use technology to help people fully participate when they cannot be physically at church for some reason.”
Though renovations are not quite complete, the hope is that they will be soon.
“It’s coming,” said Blackwell as she looked around the quiet church. “It’s a gorgeous sanctuary.”
For information about Asbury United Methodist Church South or to find out how to donate to help the church fund its flood damage repairs, visit asburysouthumc.org, call 614-837-4601, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.