Tornado-struck churches make Sunday plans

Thomas Wells | Buy at First Christian Church was completely destroyed by Monday's tornado, and was one of several Tupelo churches to take damage from the storm.

Thomas Wells | Buy at
First Christian Church was completely destroyed by Monday’s tornado, and was one of several Tupelo churches to take damage from the storm.

By Riley Manning

Daily Journal

TUPELO – For the Rev. Matt Scopel, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church, the shock of Monday’s tornado has yet to set in. He has been too busy.

“My congregation’s reactions are all over the place, from suffering to relieved,” he said. “But lots of us haven’t had a chance to process it because we went right to work. I’m spent.”

When the storm hit, Scopel and others at the church quickly began gathering neighbors in the Joyner community into the church’s basement, which doubles as a tornado shelter.

Emerging from the shelter, the area surrounding the church was unrecognizable for the fallen trees. But as a pastor, he still had Sunday to think about.

“This church is our family, our home. We want to provide hope for the church and the neighborhood, and we want to do it right here,” Scopel said.

Parkway, he said, will hold service at its usual time, 10:30 a.m., at Parkway. In 2011, Parkway donated and hung sheet rock used to repair Smithville Baptist Church, which was destroyed in a tornado. In return, Smithville Baptist will serve lunch at Parkway following the service.

“In the midst of this, God has been faithful,” Scopel said.

Across Tupelo, other churches who took damage made arrangements for their own services.

St. Luke United Methodist Church will hold a 10 a.m. service at the church, followed by lunch. Despite extensive damage to the building, the Rev. Rick Brooks, pastor of St. Luke, said the church has been able to serve as a hub for response teams.

“We’ve had wonderful offers from everywhere to host us, but it’s good to stay on site for symbolic and other reasons,” Brooks said. “Of course, dress is casual.”

Neighboring Holy Trinity Lutheran Church will hold service outdoors in front of the church at 10 a.m., according to pastor the Rev. David MacKain.

“Our sanctuary, parish hall, and fellowship hall took pretty substantial damage,” he said. “One of our member’s house was totally destroyed, but no one was hurt.”

First Christian Church was flattened by the storm, and will hold service at 10:50 a.m. in the chapel of First United Methodist Church, which has offered the building for as long as needed.

“We’re trying to get a mobile unit to use for offices and a place of worship,” said the Rev. Sherry Horton, pastor of First Christian. “We want the property to still be accessible to our members so they can see the development for themselves.”

St. James Catholic Church and the Temple B’Nai Israel also took punishment from falling limbs, but Temple B’Nai will hold their normal 9 a.m. breakfast and 10 a.m. service on Saturday.

St. James will welcome Bishop Joseph Kopacz for their communion service at 4:30 on Saturday. The church will hold services at 8 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, as well as a 1 p.m. mass in Spanish.

“I think Bishop Kopacz will be a sign of comfort for the community,” Dall said. “We have a lot on us right now, but we’re doing good.”

Lane Chapel CME Church on North Madison Street has been without power and its parsonage has a tree through the roof but plans are to hold services as usual at 8 a.m. Sunday. The Rev. Cheryl Penson, Lane Chapel pastor, said there is enough natural light to worship in the sanctuary if it’s still without power.

The Rev. Jimmy Henry, pastor of Auburn Baptist Church in a hard-hit area, said they will hold two services, one at 8:45, another at 10:30 a.m. Auburn will host a community service at 5:30 p.m.

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