Congregation displaced by tornado moves into new building
PHIL CAMPBELL – On a section of Franklin 81 near Phil Campbell that was marked with destruction, wrought with devastation and stripped barren by the deadly tornado that passed through the community more than two years ago, a visible picture of faith through adversity can now been seen against the horizon.
Standing proud and tall is the newly rebuilt Mountain View Baptist Church, whose former church building was destroyed on April 27, 2011.
Pastor Sammy Taylor, who has served at the church for 35 years, said the building is a physical reminder that God still keeps His promises.
“When I stood looking out over this hill on April 27 and saw our church destroyed and the destruction all around it, in the midst of that trying time there was a still small voice inside of me that said, ‘I am still God and it will be okay.’
“Our church has been through some very difficult days since April 2011, but through our faithfulness and obedience to God’s will in our lives, we have come through the adversity and crossed over to the other side.”
The church held a special service this past Sunday to represent that crossing over that they are now experiencing as they prepare to move into the new church building and hold their first Sunday services on July 21.
“This was a special day for our church as we held our last Sunday School in the mobile education building and our last worship service in the mobile chapel,” Taylor said.
“When we concluded the worship service, we gathered in the parking lot and walked down the highway with our banner in front bearing the words ‘Unshaken, Rebuilt, and Crossed-Over,’ me carrying the Bible – the word of God, then volunteers carrying a cross that was signed by many of the people who volunteered and worked to build our church, and the congregation followed behind singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’
“It was a special time for us as we physically and mentally crossed over to this new chapter of our ministry.”
What was also special is the Bible that Taylor carried during the crossing-over service.
He said that when the former building was constructed in 1995, he and other deacons in the church gathered together at the church site and Taylor read from 2 Timothy 3 about the importance of scripture.
“When I was done reading the verses, we put the Bible in a plastic bag and we had it buried in the exact spot where the pulpit would stand,” Taylor said.
“That way, anyone who stood in that pulpit would have to stand on the word of God.”
When the remains of the old building were being torn down in preparation for the new building, Taylor said they were able to find the old Bible and preserve it.
It now rests in the new pulpit, which was a gift from the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa Builders for Christ team, and was the Bible Taylor carried this past Sunday.
“Instead of re-burying this Bible, we buried a new Bible exactly underneath the spot where this new pulpit now stands,” Taylor said.
“It is important for us to stand on the word of God and we don’t ever want to forget that.”
Taylor also doesn’t want church members to forget where they have come from and the tests of faith they have endured in the past two years.
“It hasn’t been an easy process to go from having our services in a nice building to having our services in the parking lot and then in mobile units,” Taylor said.
“But the people have been faithful. We’ve felt we have been obedient in what God would have wanted us to do to build a facility to aid in reaching people for the kingdom, discipling them, and reaching out to our community.
“And in turn, God has been faithful to provide the ways and means for us to have this beautiful new building, and God deserves all the glory and praise.
“He has raised us up out of nothing to meet His challenges for the future.”
The new building features a sanctuary that will hold 400, and several rooms that can serve as overflow areas that will allow for a total of 600 people to attend a service at Mountain View – a fact that Taylor said he believes will allow the church to reach out to even more people in the community.
“Having the capacity to accommodate more people than we were able to in the past will be a benefit because it will allow us to grow as a church body,” Taylor said.
“We have also tried to make many of the rooms multi-use, such as being able to transform the sanctuary into a banquet hall or turn the music room into a Sunday School room.
“We want the church to be as functional as possible so we can be as effective in our ministry as we can.”
It’s obvious from looking at the updated features and details that the building is new, but Taylor said many church members will recognize several features that pay tribute to the former building as well, such as the stained glass windows.
“The windows around the top of the church have stained glass that is almost identical in coloring to the windows we had in our old building,” Taylor said.
“And there is a special window coming from the welcome area into the sanctuary itself. That stained glass window that features a picture of a dove was an original window from the old building that we were actually able to save.
“There was only one corner that had been broken and we were able to have it repaired, so that will feel very familiar to our church members when they walk into the sanctuary and see that old window.”
The new building also features a state-of-the-art children’s department complete with an activities area.
The second floor is completely dedicated to the youth and college-age church members and has classrooms as well as a large meeting room with a stage and kitchenette, and a game room for activities.
“We have really tried to think of everything that our church members would need and make this a great facility,” Taylor said.
“But as great as this building is and as thankful as we are that we have been able to rebuild something so nice, we know that this is ultimately just a building. The people are what makes up the church.”
Taylor said for those in the community who are interested in seeing the newly rebuilt Mountain View Baptist Church, they will have a special open house at 2 p.m. on July 28 followed by a dedication service and reception at 3 p.m.
“And of course we welcome anyone in the community to come visit with us anytime,” Taylor said.
“This has been a trying time for our church, but what the devil meant for our harm, God permitted for our good.
“We have rebuilt and come back stronger than we’ve ever been and we are committed to serving the Lord.”