Sunday, April 11, 1999

Church members shed tears, give thanks

People valued above buildings

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The roof and walls where torn off the gymnasium at Montgomery Community Baptist Church.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        SYMMES TOWNSHIP — On Friday, members of Montgomery Community Baptist Church wiped away tears of grief as they stared in shocked disbelief at their storm-ravaged place of worship.

        Today, they plan to rejoice together in a borrowed building. They will give praise that despite extensive damage to the church and to homes of some of the 1,400 members, none died or was seriously injured in the devastating tornado that raged through the area, said Joni Lipsey, wife of Pastor Tom Lipsey.

        “Our service will be a celebration,” Mrs. Lipsey said. “We have our lives. We have each other. We have a lot to be thankful for. This has surely reinforced our thinking that the church is not the building. It's the people that make the church.”

        Services will be 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. today at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy High School, 11525 Snider Road in Sycamore Township.

        On Saturday, while other area churches, organizations and individuals were collecting money and goods for the storm victims, Montgomery Community Baptist Church members dug through the rubble of what had been the church activity center and preschool. Damage to the sanctuary appeared to be relatively minor.

        The Ohio Casualty Group, which insures the church, estimates damage at $2 million.

        Church members recovered a few treasures, such as some old pictures of the church at its original site in Roselawn in 1903, said Wanda Bowers, office manager. The church relocated to Montgomery Road in 1980 and built the activity center in 1994. The new $6 million sanctuary opened in December 1998.

        “We were so blessed that the damage is no worse. Our first thought was, "My God! What if the kids had been here?'” Ms. Bowers said.

        The Lipseys' home in the storm area survived. But “20 feet from us, it's mass destruction. We were so blessed. It sure humbles you,” Mrs. Lipsey said.

        Nearby, Good Shepherd Church on Kemper Road was unscathed, but homes of several parishioners were damaged or lost, said Scott Mussari, youth minister.

        “At all the masses (today), we'll be trying to assess needs — getting a list of volunteers to match them up,” Mr. Mussari said.

        “As we assess more needs we'll have additional prayer services. Many parishioners are volunteering to help. We're just asking them to help any way they can and keep those affected in our prayers.”

        Montgomery Assembly of God on Pfeiffer Road in Montgomery suffered no damage. Church members are working with the American Red Cross to supply goods for the victims, said Rhonda Grage, church treasurer. Services will be held at regular times.

        Church of the Savior United Methodist on Pfeiffer Road was not damaged, but homes of about 30 of its 900 members had minor to severe loss, said Nancy Pohl-Smith, church secretary. Services will be held as usual.

        At Montgomery Community Baptist Church, all activities this week are canceled.

        “Our church has wonderful people. We'll survive this. We'll rebuild and be stronger,” Mrs. Lipsey said. “We're just going to take it day by day, week by week.”



Pinpointing the damage in the Tristate
Homeowners sort out emotions, scattered memories
Where to donate, where to get help
Orphaned dog has broken pelvis, heart
Devoted pair died together
'When God calls, we must go'
Sirens not designed to penetrate buildings
Did you hear the sirens?
New home, owners spared
Utility crews, municipal workers out in force
Volunteers offer goods, hands, time
Mother Nature's worst brings out the best in human nature
- Church members shed tears, give thanks
Hoosiers pitch in to help neighbors
Insurance adjusters bring checks, reassuring words
Warren County took blow, too
One year later, Alabama tornado victims still rebuilding
Coping with the storm
Coping with the storm: Returning to your home