GARDEN CITY —
When the tornado tore through Cullman April 27, 2011, one of the many buildings destroyed was Christ Lutheran Church. Stunned residents throughout the city came out of shelters moments after the tornado hit and were awed by the destruction.
With traffic barred in many areas citizens began walking around surveying the damage and giving thanks it was no worse. Two of those who left their shelter immediately after the tornado passed were Kathryn and Jay Jones who lived on the corner of Third Avenue and Tenth Street SE.
Jay began walking toward his office then located on the corner of Ninth Street SW and Highway 31 while Kathryn began walking toward Grace Episcopal Church where she and Jay are members. They met a block from what remained of Christ Lutheran and were drawn toward site by what they saw of what remained of the Sacristy.
“When we got to the church it appeared that maybe someone had been going through some of the rubble and our first thought was members of the church were trying to salvage what they could,” Kathryn explained. “And then we wondered if maybe someone had been rummaging through the debris to see what could be looted. As we stood there we noticed the processional cross, twisted and bent, lying in the rubble.”
Jay said he carefully began going through the rubble to try to get the cross. “I did not know if it was broken or what but felt I had to retrieve it to preserve it for the church,” he explained. When he got the cross out of the debris he discovered it was bent at a strange angle but that it was not broken and that the wooden standard also was totally intact. “It was getting dark so we decided to take the cross with us to ensure nothing happened to it and we would be able to return it to the members of the church,” he added.
Pastor Sandy Niiler said when they had their first service at the Sacred Heart Monastery on Convent Road that Prioress Sister Janet Marie Flemming told her the bent cross should be used. Pastor Niiler said it was hard to view the twisted cross but it also reminded them of what they had experienced. Jay Jones said when he looked at the cross he told his wife “if you believe, the cross will prevail.”
Pastor Sandy said when Father Bob Blackwell, Priest at Grace Episcopal Church, asked her what they needed as construction of the new building was underway, she said their needs were so great she did not know where to begin. As they talked about the various things needed, Father Blackwell said “we have an extra processional cross” and it was agreed this would be something very much needed. “This was not just any cross,” Blackwell explained. “This was the first processional cross used at Grace when the first church was built. We thought having the opportunity for this cross to be used in another new church would be very fitting. It also helps to symbolically show that the two denominations are united spiritually.”
Both old, twisted cross, and the new cross from Grace were used for the dedication service of the church. “The new processional cross led the way followed by Acolytes and then the old, twisted cross,” Pastor Niiler said. While the new cross is in the customary place behind the Altar, the old cross is in a corner of the church just inside the front doors. “Sometimes it is painful to look at it but then we realize how much we have left,” she said.