With new members, church plans to rebuild

With new members, church plans to rebuild

Ashanka Kumari

For Teresa Croom, College Hill Baptist Church was the one thing she had left of her grandfather.

When the UA senior first stepped into the church after the storm, everything was in disarray. The roof was gone and furniture lay scattered on the floors.

Everything appeared to be lost until she walked into the Rev. Kelvin Croom’s office. The office that formerly belonged to her late grandfather was exactly as she had left it the day before the tornado.

“My father’s red tie was still hanging on the knob of a drawer in his office and there was only one picture on the floor,” Teresa Croom said. “It was an awkward feeling because when I walked into the church, everything was gone, but when I walked into that office, it was untouched.”

Although most of the church was destroyed, some things were left completely unharmed, the most surprising of which was the sanctuary, she said.

“We had a little desk that our assistant pastor used for Bible study and it was standing up straight and I thought that it was like the power of God, because you could tell that everything in the sanctuary was left untouched,” she said.

For church member Collin Lee Taylor, the church was a beacon of hope amid the destruction.

“Most of the apartments in my complex were destroyed but I could still see the church,” Taylor said. “The Croom family took me in after the storm and made sure that I was safe and on April 28, 2011, we went back to Alberta City to see if there was anything we could do to help the community.”

Plans for rebuilding the church are currently in works and Croom said he anticipates returning to their own church in the next two years. The new location will be behind Alberta City Baptist Church.

Since the tornado, Pastor Croom said College Hill Baptist Church has added about 80 new members and are continuing to move forward.

“We are utilizing this time to continue to reach out to the community,” Croom said. “We feel that the church is always in our heart and brick cannot contain our God.”

On Easter Sunday, the weekend before the storm, Rev. Croom had preached a sermon entitled “Now is the Time” and told his primarily African-American congregation that God had put in his heart that a storm of a magnitude Tuscaloosa had never witnessed was coming, he said.

When the sun came out after the morning storms on April 27, 2011, the pastor said he knew it was not a good sign for what was going to come.

“When we heard the storm hit Alberta, I was completely devastated,” the pastor said. “We had to immediately start to look for a new place to worship.”

Although the storm hit on Wednesday, the members of the College Hill Baptist Church were worshipping in the Campus View Auditorium at the University Church of Christ the following Sunday, he said.

“My strength with the lord had increased tremendously and I feel I have reached a higher spiritual level in the last year,” Teresa Croom said. “We have learned that we are the church and the [physical] church was just a building.”

Currently, the congregation of College Hill Baptist Church still meets in the Campus View Auditorium of the University Church of Christ for their Sunday sermons, he said. For their weekly Bible studies, they utilize the Youth Auditorium at the First Baptist Church in downtown Tuscaloosa.

“I tell my dad all the time that our church family has lifted to a higher spiritual level and that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve been able to realize since we’ve been fellowshipping with the First Baptist Church and the University Church of Christ,” Teresa Croom said. “Sometimes before you can rebuild, your slate has to be clean and become new.”

Several congregation members have received new homes, automobiles and job opportunities since the storm, Pastor Croom said.

“One of our members who lost her entire house has gotten a new automobile and another has received a new home from Habitat for Humanity,” Pastor Croom said. “We are blessed that there was no loss of life [within our congregation] and all of the material things our members have lost have been replaced above and beyond through the grace of god.”

Teresa Croom said keeping her faith in God is the best way to continue to move forward.

“As long as you continuously praise Him in the middle of the situation, God will always bless you,” she said. “He always has his own time table and it’s in his will and it’s going to prosper.”