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Memphis church to rebuild after February roof collapse

The First Baptist Church of Memphis has come full circle since its roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow last winter.

The First Baptist Church of Memphis has come full circle since its roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow last winter. Photo by Amanda Wada.

— The First Baptist Church of Memphis has come full circle since its roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow last winter.

“This is not the church. The people are the church. Did we lose a building? Yes. Did we lose the church? No. The church is just fine.”

— Pastor Art George

Now, the church is making plans to rebuild on Route 5 in the town of Camillus.

The new church will be situated on 10 acres at the corner of Route 5 and Bennetts Corners Road in Camillus, east of the village of Elbridge. The land purchase was finalized in late November and Pastor Art George hopes to see it open by April. The 18,000 square-foot building with a new auditorium, gymnasium, offices and worship auditorium was funded through donations and an insurance settlement from February’s havoc.

What started as a small crack one day, turned into a full collapse the next, George said. A church parishioner noticed the sheetrock from the ceiling falling, like snow, in the auditorium. Within a half-hour, the weight from the snow had crippled the building, collapsing the Sunday school classrooms and worship auditoriums. The congregation has been meeting in the old church building next door since the collapse. But George says the church’s building isn’t what matters.

“This is not the church,” he said, gesturing toward the buildings. “The people are the church. Did we lose a building? Yes. Did we lose the church? No. The church is just fine.”

Shortly after the collapse, the church received a generous $2,000 donation from a Liberian refugee camp on Staten Island.

“It’s the most humbling thing,” George said. “They’re these poor people who don’t have two nickels to rub together, and they sent in $2,000.”

Last year, the church was able to deliver coats for the refugees through missionary Elizabeth “Missy” Jones. Jones worked as a missionary in Liberia until the Civil War broke out, and she returned to New York. She runs the refugee camp on Staten Island, working through Repentance Baptist Church.

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