The congregation, which began meeting at Williams Chapel United Methodist Church in Pineywoods after their church was destroyed, reunited this Easter on the lot overlooking downtown. The sunrise service was their first time to worship in Cordova since last year’s devastating tornadoes.
Now church members are celebrating a different kind of resurrection. The first service will be held in the new Long Memorial tomorrow at 11 a.m.
“Everyone is just so excited and appreciative of this second opportunity that God has given us to serve this community,” the Rev. Ryan Rosser said.
Although construction on the $2 million facility is not yet completed, Rosser said members felt it was important to be in it in time to welcome a team of Methodist volunteers who will be working on the church this fall.
The group, Nomads on a Mission Active in Divine Service, is scheduled to arrive this weekend. The NOMADS will be living in RVs in the church parking lot and will remain in Cordova through mid-December.
Rosser said the first priority will be to finish the church’s kitchen.
Projects that will take longer to complete include turning a portion of the fellowship hall into a day care and construction of a bell tower, a feature that defined the previous church in the minds of many Cordova residents.
Rosser said including a bell tower in the architectural plans was a leap of faith on behalf of church members. While the rest of the construction was covered by the insurance settlement from the storm, a loan might be necessary to cover the $200,000 needed for the bell tower.
However, Rosser said the congregation is hopeful that God will make a way for them to add the bell tower without having to take on any debt. Members have already raised approximately $100,000 for the project.
Although the windows in the new church have the same Gothic arches as before, they will not be covered in the beautiful stained glass windows that made the other sanctuary so recognizable.
Still, the people of Long Memorial know that there are more important aspects to a church than its architectural features.
“If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that a church is not a building; it’s people,” Rosser said.
Long Memorial was one of the most historic structures lost in Cordova on April 27, 2011.
The 100-year-old church was built in 1912 for $12,000. Funding was provided by the heirs of Captain Benjamin Long, the founder of the city and namesake of the church.
The new church has more than 9,000 square feet, approximately 1,000 more than its predecessor.
The facility is also more accessible for the handicapped and the elderly and includes a reinforced basement that can serve as a shelter during times of severe weather.
The proposed day care, which is expected to open next fall, is a new ministry that the previous church did not have the capacity to accommodate.
Rosser said he and his members feel strongly that God has allowed them to build a new church in order to minister to the needs of the community.
“Crisis has become our opportunity, and we’re excited about what God has in store for us,” Rosser said.