- Cullman, Alabama

May 2, 2012

Stained glass windows of tornado damaged church replaced

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — In the quiet stillness of a weekday morning, with the sun pouring through the stained glass in the sanctuary of Cullman’s First United Methodist Church, you would never know that this place was left in a shambles from a mighty rushing wind on April 27, 2011.

The church, some parts of which are over a century old, just finished construction and rebuilding of the sections of the building which were damaged by the April 27, 2011, tornado that swept through downtown Cullman and other parts of Cullman County and North Alabama.

The roof was lifted off the majestic rock structure, and the original windows on the south side were shattered into millions of pieces.

“The windows were over 90 years old, “said Associate Pastor Byron Vance, looking up at the multi-hued panels that have just been installed. “They were created by an Italian artist in the 1920s and we were worried that they couldn’t be duplicated,” he said.

The new windows may not have the patina that the older ones had, but looking across the sanctuary toward the north-facing windows, one can tell no difference in the originals and the new windows.

“There were only three windows damaged on the north side, while on the south side, all the windows had to be replaced,” he explained.

In the arch, high above the pews, in the huge central wall of the front of the stately church, the depiction in glass of the Good Shepherd with a lamb looks down over the congregation on Sundays and out over the streets of Cullman, a landmark for all who come this way.  

It too, was broken and shattered due to the storm. Now it is whole again, serving as a reminder that much like the hearts of the people who call this church home, it is healed.

The lovely hand-hooked prayer cushions that line the alter were not damaged, nor was the flooring. “In 2001 the church was carpeted in here,” said Vance. “But it was wet after the storm and when it was taken up for replacement, the original hardwood floors were discovered to be in good shape so the decision was made not to replace the carpet.”

Vance says that the hardwood floors actually help the acoustics in the huge sanctuary. “The organ and the choir voices actually bounce around in here now allowing us to handle and harness those sounds,” he said.

It’s been a long year for everyone in the community, but the rebuilding of landmarks like this one are proof of the resilience, strength and faith of the people who live and worship here.