Emmanuel Assembly of God replaces its bell tower
God taketh away, but He also giveth back again.
The Emmanuel Assembly of God in Onset replaced its bell tower on Friday after losing it last year due to the strong winds of Hurricane Irene.
The collapse, which cost upwards of $65,000 in damages, was actually a blessing in disguise, said Pastor Colon Wright.
The church's insurance covered the loss and a new 13-foot tall and 9-foot wide bell tower was purchased to replace the old bell tower.
A new state-of-the-art wheelchair ramp also replaced an old ramp ruined in the bell tower's fall.
Both replacements are new additions to a church that is more than a 100 years old and is in need of repairs.
"The handicap ramp - that was a blessing. The old one was getting ready to fall apart," explained Wright.
The wheelchair ramp also has a plastic coating to protect it from the weather.
"It won't rot. It's pretty much maintenance free," said church parishioner and volunteer maintenance man Jim Meckes. "They did a beautiful job. People in the church are really excited to see the progress made."
The new bell tower also has a protective plastic coating, said church member Michael Williams, who was also the contractor for the project.
"This will last a lifetime. Its been engineered for 200 mile-an-hour winds," he said.
Wright was giving a sermon last August 28 when a neighbor ran into the church to tell him the bell tower was swaying in the wind.
"I'm usually pretty calm. I said, 'let's exit the building quietly,' and everybody started running towards the front door," said Wright.
The 10 parishioners were running in the wrong direction. The bell tower is located right above the front door.
"I said, 'No, we're not going out the front door. Let's go out the back door," said Wright with an ironic laugh.
Luckily, the bell tower fell right in front of the church instead of through the roof and into the building.
"It was a God moment," said Wright. "There was a huge wind. It twisted and twisted and fell and missed the church."
The steeple plopped right down on the ground missing power lines and cars. No one eas hurt.
It fell so conveniently in front of the church that people passing by could hardly believe it was an accident, said Wright.
"Somebody drove by and said, 'Did you move it?' I said, 'This is where it landed.' He said, "No.'"
Wright and his congregation have been making repairs to the church built in 1904 since he took over as pastor almost six years ago, said Wright.
The congregation has fixed the roof, put in a new furnace and sanded down and painted the building's siding.
Onset resident Marie Strawn lives near the church and has seen it change from a Methodist church in the 1960s, to a Baptist church, and finally to the current Assembly of God congregation.
"The congregation has done so much to maintain its church and keep it in good repair," said Strawn, explaining her regret when the bell tower fell down.
"I'm really happy to see it back in its original shape," she said, while watching them put the tower up on Friday.
The church still has a list of repairs it wants to make. They include new doors, new windows and repairs to the chimney.
But a new bell tower and a new wheelchair ramp are items checked off that list.
"God has taken a bad thing and turned it into a good thing," said Wright, adding that the new bell tower was "raised up for the glory and honor of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords."