By LYDIA SEABOL AVANT
The Tuscaloosa News
More than a dozen churches in Tuscaloosa were damaged by the April 27, 2011, tornado — some of them beyond repair.
One of those churches — Alberta Baptist — took a step toward coming back on Sunday as members celebrated the construction of their new church with a groundbreaking ceremony. The new church, which will be slightly smaller than the original, will be built back at the same location on University Boulevard in Alberta.
“I remember two days after the storm, CNN was here and the reporter asked us what our plans were,” said the church’s pastor, Larry Corder. “I told her we would rebuild. That although the building was gone, God’s people were still here.”
The church has served as a “beacon of light” in the Alberta community since 1921, Corder said.
“We feel this is home to our mission,” Corder said.
Although the church has worshipped in Northport at Open Door Baptist for the past 18 months, the church congregation never stopped serving its community. For the first four months after the tornado, the church set up a help tent in its parking lot, giving aid to those in need. Even now, a year and a half later, the tent is still in place to help others two days a week.
The tornado changed the church, but for the better, Corder said during the groundbreaking.
“The tornado did a very positive thing for this church; it forced us out of these four walls,” Corder said. “It opened the doors, and we were able to help those in crisis.”
The experience has given the church a new vision: That it should rebuild in Alberta in order to serve the community more, he said.
“We realized while meeting in another church building that our place is here,” said John Matthews, the chairman of the long-range planning committee for the church. “We realized that God would have us back to serve, and we’ve done everything we could to get back here.”
Before committing to rebuilding, the church congregation underwent 40 days of prayer to determine the church’s plan, Corder added.
“I hope that we all believe that there are greater things that are yet to be done here,” said Joey Hocutt, chairman of the deacons at Alberta Baptist, during Sunday’s ceremony. “There are plenty of people who still need to be reached here and in Tuscaloosa County, which is why we are coming back.”
During the groundbreaking ceremony, City Councilman Kip Tyner, who represents Alberta, praised the church for their work in the community following the storm.
“You were one of the hardest-hit spots, but you also worked the hardest for others and still do,” Tyner said.
The new two-story church will be built wider and shorter than its previous three-story building. It should be completed in about a year. The existing Christian Life Center, which was damaged in the storm, is in the process of being repaired and should be done in six months.
Once that building is usable, the church will worship there until the sanctuary is completed around the end of 2013.
“We are all very excited, because we feel that this is our ministry that God has given us,” said church member Kay Kitchens.
Information from: The Tuscaloosa News.