Sunday afternoon, October 9, the congregation of Ford’s Chapel gathered on its historic grounds to enjoy a picnic, a fireworks show, but most importantly to celebrate the burning of its mortgage. How this all came about is a story worth telling.
April 27, 2011 will be long remembered by the state of Alabama for the devastation and loss of life caused by numerous tornadoes. The F5 that crossed north Alabama hit Ford’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Harvest. Three of its four buildings suffered irreparable damage, which included its historic sanctuary, containing beams dating from 1808. The remaining building, a sanctuary finished in 2004, weathered the storm with minor damage.
During the days afterwards, Ford’s Chapel led the clean-up efforts in the Harvest area. It became a staging place providing food for volunteers and meals for those displaced. People worked tirelessly for weeks to be the hands of Christ to their neighbors.
Assessing the damage to the facilities and working with the insurance company proved to be a monumental task. A key group spent hours cataloging and determining the losses while preparing to meet with insurance adjusters. When everything was completed, the insurance pay-off helped wipe away existing debt with additional monies to address a new building.
"God’s Breath," as some call the tornado, has brought new life and a new hope to a congregation struggling under the weight of excessive debt. Being set free to do ministry instead of funding debt is something Ford’s Chapel is celebrating. A new facility (Phase 1) will likely start next year. It will address God’s vision for Ford’s Chapel and how it can uniquely impact its mission field.
Though it is the oldest Methodist Church in Alabama, it is embracing the new challenge of becoming the boldest.