It has now been 9 ½ months, since the facilities of St. Barnabas were struck by an F2 tornado during Tuesday of Holy Week. Total damage was nearly $3.5 million dollars, over half the insurance valuation of our property. We were away from our facilities for 3 months entirely and returned on July 8th to our sanctuary and ½ of our classrooms, with full restoration complete on September 16th. Insurance covered all but $268,000 in upgrades (mainly in our children’s ministry area and technological upgrades in the sanctuary and family life center). One area of coverage we had that saved us about $300,000 was code upgrade insurance (make sure your church has it!). Now the home base of our congregation is more beautiful than ever, and more importantly, our congregation is renewed with a new mission focus.
We could not be here today without the surrounding extravagant generosity and risk-taking mission of the people around us: our neighboring community, fellow neighboring churches and the astonishing support of our Central Texas Conference United Methodist Churches. Beginning that Wednesday our neighborhood provided more water than we could drink and more food than we could eat. Martin High School in Arlington provided our auditorium for Easter Worship and a practice field for the biggest Easter Egg Hunt I have ever seen (7,000 replacement eggs from nearby schools for the 3,000 that were lost). The Seventh Day Adventist Church offered us their facilities for 3 months without charge, as did the Tate Springs Baptist Church for our Early Education Center. The Conference Disaster Team sent more than 100 people our way to help with clean up. Monies were released from UMCOR for cleanup in our surrounding neighborhood. Bishop Lowry and other cabinet members were here on sight offering prayer, support and connections for help. More than $80,000 in unsolicited gifts were sent from all over the United States, more than half of that coming from Central Texas Churches. We no longer see ourselves as a church that reaches out to its community, for we have become part of our community as they reached out to us in our time of crisis. We also understand better what it means to be connected in the Central Texas Conference.
St. Barnabas is a predominantly middle/upper-middle class congregation that is used to helping others in need. It was a humbling and transforming experience to be needy and become receivers of the love of Christ made so real. We will never be the same. Our new purpose statement reads, “To build a fully-committed community without walls where people actively share the love of Christ.” The churches of the Central Texas Conference have “actively shared the love of Christ with us” and words fail to express our gratitude. But let us try. Thank you for your gestures of love and encouragement. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for standing and working along side us. Thank you for financial gifts that helped us do the entire rebuild without adding to our debt. Thank you for being part of the Holy Spirit bringing a fresh wind to our congregation that dwarfed a tornado.
Sincerely in Christ,
Will Cotton and the people of St. Barnabas United Methodist Church in Arlington.