This time of year, many faith-based organizations are busy serving up food and offering services for the needy. In Atlantic City, Superstorm Sandy has altered the way fellowship is shared in a handful of churches.
Bethel Baptist Church is bayside on New Jersey Avenue, where two Sandy-driven high tides brought this already weathered church to its knees, filling it with water and putting it at risk for mold. It’s closed and rumor has it, it’ll be a tear down.
“So what are they going to do with the pastor and the people then…tear it down?” asked said Rev. Elias Thomas, pastor of Community Baptist, a short drive down the street. It’s closed too. “He put his blood, seat and tears in that building,” said Thomas about Bethel’s pastor, Rev. Clifford E. Trapp.
“There is an aroma in here from the mold and the water,” said Thomas while showing his own church building. “This is the water line where you can see over the electrical outlets and so this carpet and these pews are not even two years old and so we have to replace these as well.”
As he plays the church’s piano, he notes how out of tune it is after drying out.
Pastor Thomas has insurance. He’s been waiting for an adjuster to come. He says he can only do so much to rebuild because he has another job and is spread thin.
In the meantime, members of Community Baptist enjoy shared services at another parish in Atlantic City. He says that’s been a blessing.
Still, “it’s like Dorothy clicking the heals saying there’s no place like home. The members especially seniors are used to being home, and right now we can’t be home,” said Thomas. “Everything is on hold.”
So the regular offerings other than worship services, such as praise dancing, choir rehearsal, computer literacy courses, and a monthly feeding program, they are some of what’s on hold.
But Rev. Thomas isn’t worried about losing members. “I don’t think I’ll lose a base. I just think I would gain. Come back bigger, stronger, better than ever,” he said. “This is their house; they will come back. And then we’ll gain some new lambs. We just have to shepherd them as well. Storms always bring people together.”