KIMBERLY, Alabama – This Sunday, members of the Kimberly Church of God will worship outside under a tent — just like the founding members did more than 100 years ago in the exact same location.
The church building was destroyed Monday night by storms and tornadoes that tore through central Alabama and heavily damaged the city of Kimberly. Portions of the church parking lot were covered in debris Tuesday morning, including piles of bricks and shattered stained glass.
“I’m pretty upset about it, but you know the good news is that no one in the church was hurt, and that’s the most important thing,” member Karen Gamble told AL.com. “Our church isn’t a building.”
The Kimberly Church of God celebrated its 111th year of service last fall, and Pastor Stan Cooke has said it’s the “oldest continuing Pentecostal Church” in Alabama and the United States. He said the destruction won’t change that.
“We’re going to rebuild and press on,” he said. “The members are wonderful people and they are rock solid in their faith. They will stand behind this church through this process and we will come out better on the other side.”
The church was founded in 1902 by Martin Scott Haynes, who was hired by the Methodist Church in the late 1800s to design and construct buildings for the Methodist Church’s Birmingham-Southern College, and to design and build St. Vincent Hospital. A leader in the Kimberly community asked Haynes to hold a revival meeting and a tent was set up at the same location where the church still meets, near the intersection of Stouts Road and Highway 31.
“Next Sunday we’re going to be worshiping right here in this parking lot,” Cooke said. “We’re going to set up a tent just like over 100 years ago.”
Gamble said she was sad to see the church building damaged, but she was able to find encouragement beyond the debris Tuesday morning.
“I remembered my Bible that I left here on a pew Sunday night,” she said. “I’ve had this Bible since I was a kid. It’s more of a sentimental thing, and I was glad to find it untouched. I’m really upset about my church building being destroyed, but I think that finding my Bible untouched was just like this little piece of hope.”