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14 months after tornado, Orrick Baptist church finds sanctuary

The May 10, 2014, tornado in Orrick did enough damage to the First Baptist Church sanctuary to force the congregation to hold Sunday services in the fellowship hall for a year. The sanctuary’s stained-glass windows, ceiling and upholstered pews all  were damaged during the storm. (Photos by David Knopf/Richmond News)

The May 10, 2014, tornado in Orrick did enough damage to the First Baptist Church sanctuary to force the congregation to hold Sunday services in the fellowship hall for a year. The sanctuary’s stained-glass windows, ceiling and upholstered pews all were damaged during the storm. (Photos by David Knopf/Richmond News)

By David Knopf, Richmond News Editor

Sunlight filters through the stained-glass windows of Orrick First Baptist Church, adding a warm glow to a pristine sanctuary that was in shambles just 14 months ago.

The 100-year-old brick church building at the corner of Adams and Pine was one of three church buildings damaged by the May 10, 2014, tornado.

The storm peeled the roof from the sanctuary, Head Deacon Mike Hartwick said, toppled three central air-conditioning units on the roofs of the church and fellowship hall next door, and hit the church parsonage on Gooch Street so hard that Pastor Matt Simpson and his wife Tiffany spent the next seven months in a Liberty apartment.

The damage was extensive enough to cause more than $1 million in repairs, much of which was covered by Guide One, said Hartwick, who supervised the rebuilding phase for the congregation.

Hartwick and Rev. Simpson discussed the grueling 10-month period in which services and other church functions were held in the fellowship hall, but neither wanted his photo taken to accompany this story.

“I really don’t want to,” said Hartwick, sitting at the edge of the pulpit. “This isn’t about me. The hand of God was on it.”

Simpson said he and his wife were interviewed and photographed a number of times in the year after the tornado, and he, too, preferred to remain in the background.

Hartwick recalled the condition of the sanctuary when he reached the church by bicycle from his home on Floyd Road 30 minutes after the storm.

“I didn’t have my keys with me, so I pulled myself up on the ledge so I could look in,” he said. “Ceiling tile, Fiberglas and glass were everywhere. It rolled the roof up and laid the (roof-mounted) air-conditioners over on their side.”

The church’s beautiful stained-glass windows took a toll, with some glass broken and other glass still intact but pulled away from the leading that secures it.

Hartwick scanned the sanctuary, counting windows that had been damaged and repaired.

The complete story is in the Thursday, July 9, 2015 Richmond News.

Click here for our E-edition and read the rest of the story.

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