When the Good Friday tornadoes ripped through the Upper Sand Mountain communities of Sylvania and Powell, members of Trinity UMC (Rainsville/Sylvania) responded quickly by offering accommodation and support for emergency management personnel responding to the disaster. "Burnt Church" (as Trinity is known locally) became the EMA command post, and church members worked tirelessly through the Easter weekend to provide coffee, meals and support for responders.
"This Easter we had the opportunity not to just HAVE church but BE the church to our hurting community," said Trinity pastor David Allison. "I have never experienced an Easter like this one." Trinity cancelled its Sunday school to serve breakfast, and according to Pastor Allison, "put all those Sunday school lessons to work." At worship time the congregation and many of the EMA responders paused from their work to gather in the sanctuary for Easter worship. "I could not be more proud of how our church members responded," Pastor Allison said.
Trinity became the gathering place Saturday and Easter Sunday for residents needing passes to get back in to their homes, hot meals, and words of encouragement. Other churches in the community sent personnel and food to contribute to the effort. Saturday afternoon Pastor Allison's children played their fiddles for a while to ease the tension and provide a break for weary victims and responders.
As the Sylvania community shifts into recovery mode, Trinity continues to be a focal point for the community. A long-term recovery committee of pastors and representatives from the Upper Sand Mountain Parish, the Sand Mountain Baptist Association, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and the town of Sylvania meets weekly at Trinity to coordinate restoring as much as possible what residents lost in the storm. Local churches are organizing to come alongside Trinity folks to serve meals to volunteer workers and displaced residents in a truly ecumenical effort. "It's not a Methodist thing or a Baptist thing," Pastor Allison said, "it is a Jesus thing. Above all we want our community to see the Body of Christ at work."