WATCH: ‘Worship in the Rubble’: Congregants of Churches Destroyed in Deadly Tennessee Tornadoes Gather Outside and in Tents to Pray, Grieve, and Praise God on Sunday Morning

Worshipers hold a tent service Sunday at Mount Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Mark Humphrey, AP

Surrounded by tragedy and destruction, many Christians in the areas hit hardest by the violent Tennessee tornadoes did what they always do on Sunday mornings.

They went to church.

Although steadfast in their weekly routines, some filed into services with heavier hearts, grieving the members of their congregations who died in the storm and would never show up again for a Sunday service.

“Peace is not found in the absence of tragedy. Peace is found in the presence of the Lord,” said John Nichols, the teaching minister at Collegeside Church of Christ in Cookeville, Tennessee. Two of Collegeside’s members died in the storm.

People leave a worship service at Mount Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Mark Humphrey, AP
Worshipers leave a service Sunday at Mount Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Mark Humphrey, AP

Worship also looked a bit different on the first Sunday after seven tornadoes touched down in Tennessee.

Congregations whose churches were in the path of the twisters gathered outside in the crisp, morning air against a backdrop of their wrecked buildings while others assembled inside borrowed spaces so they could still pray and sing together.

Rev. Jacques Boyd preached under a big white tent in North Nashville as Mount Bethel Missionary Baptist Church’s badly damaged house of worship and Christian center stood behind him. The church dubbed it “worship in the rubble.”

“For 135 years we have always had a place to call home,” said Boyd, preaching.

Elaine Cirker, left, embraces Rev. Ricardo Lange as worshippers welcome one another during a service in a tent at Mount Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Mark Humphrey, AP

“But my question for you, Mount Bethel, now that the brick and mortar is gone: Do you still love God? Now that the brick and mortar is gone, do you still love this community? Now that the brick and mortar is gone, can you still give God praise?”

They did and they could. Those inside the crowded tent responded to each of the pastor’s questions with a chorus of yeses and applause.

Even contractors who were busily trying to replace downed power lines paused and took off their hard hats as Boyd led the congregation in prayer on the sunny, windy morning.

It was a display of resilience and faith replicated across Tennessee on Sunday morning.

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SOURCE: USA Today; Nashville Tennessean, Holly Meyer, Sandy Mazza, and Travis Dorman