East End United Methodist Church in Nashville sustained significant damage during Tuesday’s tornado. The 113-year-old church lost its bell tower and a stained glass window depicting Jesus as shepherd, which had recently been renovated. The community is rallying around East End Nashville, helping with clean up efforts. Across the street, a family who lost a big chunk of their house are thankful to have their lives–thanks in large part, they believe, to the big church.
“Selfishly I feel so thankful because I do think the church held its ground for us and sheltered us and our neighbors,” Annie Poag told News 2. “It took the brunt for my family,” she added.
The Shelter of East End Nashville
Poag and her husband have three small children. Their 10-year-old daughter woke the couple up in the night when she heard tornado sirens going off. Originally, the couple shrugged off her concern, telling her that sirens go off a lot. What they thought was hail hitting their house was actually debris. Thankfully, the family made it to a bathroom in the lower level of their house. “We felt the shaking, the rumbling, sat, the power was out, sat in our bathroom for a bit,” Poag said.
When they looked outside after the storm passed, they saw the church across the street, damaged yet resolute. East End’s pastor, Rev. Judi Hoffman, is so glad the church building was able to help in this way. “The church has always been in the business of saving people, and I’m so glad we did,” Hoffman told News 2.
What’s Next for East End United Methodist Church?
Despite not being able to congregate in their building at the moment, Hoffman plans to continue services by holding worship in a park next to the damaged church. The pastor is convinced the church will recover. “I have no doubt we will come back,” she says. In an update posted to East End’s website, the church says structural engineers are currently doing a “full analysis of the stability of our church.”
This isn’t the first time East End Nashville has experienced a tornado. In 1998, a tornado flattened another church nearby, St. Ann’s Episcopal. Hoffman told ABC she had actually helped pick up debris around St. Ann’s in 1998. At the time, East End sheltered neighbors affected by that hurricane. They even hosted the congregation of St. Ann’s for five years before that church was able to purchase a new property. Now, East End is on the receiving end of help.
Hoffman told ABC News the neighborhood is “rallying” around the East End Nashville. On Tuesday morning after the tornadoes subsided, Hoffman, who had to evacuate from the church’s parsonage the night before, returned to the church yard riddled with debris. She says she was inspired by the people who showed up to help clear the debris–people she didn’t even know.
Other churches and people affected by the Tennessee tornadoes suffered damage and loss of life. At least 24 people died and many homes and buildings are significantly damaged. Please continue to keep those affected in your prayers.