Texas Church Clears Out Flood-damaged Sanctuary, Then Cries and Sings Together About the Water

The Bible has plenty to say about dangerous waters. Moses and the Israelites fled Egypt through a parted Red Sea. When Jesus’ disciples were at sea on a boat, rocked by the winds, Jesus walked to them on the water and told them to take courage.

And then, of course, there was the great flood that washed nearly the whole world away.

The First United Methodist Church in Dickinson, Texas, sits on one of those nearly anonymous business strips you can find in most cities, next to a Wendy’s and across the street from a car dealership and a modest community bank. But its history stretches back more than a century, including in 1900 when the original building was destroyed by a hurricane and then rebuilt.

A little over a week ago, as Hurricane Harvey bore down on Texas, senior pastor Jack Matkin canceled Sunday services, fearing the coming calamity. His assessment was correct. When Harvey arrived in this southeastern Houston suburb of nearly 20,000, the rains fell torrentially and the bayou rose precipitously.

Floodwaters rushed into the church and poured into the main sanctuary. Several rows of pews were nearly underwater. When the sun finally came out again, the colored light coming through the stained glass shone down on a pool of brown water several feet deep.

When the flooding receded enough, a contingent of staff and congregants visited the church to see what Harvey had wrought, including the church’s organist, Bob Simpson, 56.

“It was overwhelming at first,” Simpson recalled. A second thought immediately followed: “The first thing you got to do is fix it.”

And fix it they did. For several days, dozens of volunteers from Dickinson and all over Texas went to work, including people Matkin had never seen before. Everything wet had to go.

After closing for the previous Sunday, the building roared to life with the sound of pumps and shop vacuums draining the water, saws cutting up ruined pews, hammers knocking through soaked drywall, power screwdrivers to remove swollen interior doors. Files in the bottom drawers of cabinets and desks had to be thrown out.

Many soaked pews were thrown into a pile out back, and the thick wooden pew ends were stacked for storage in a front room, perhaps for a future art project.

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SOURCE: Matt Pearce and Hailey Branson-Potts 
The Los Angeles Times