Local churches make special connection
On March 25, 2021, a destructive EF-2 tornado swept through the small community of Ohatchee, located in the Cheaha District. A small rural church was in its path.
Ragan Chapel United Methodist Church was completely destroyed that day. The church, which had been established over a hundred years earlier, is considered by many to be a vital part of the community.
In Birmingham that day, a member of Woodlawn United Methodist Church (South Central District) Tina Hendrickson, co-chair of Woodlawn UMC's Missions Team, started thinking. "What could we do for Ragan Chapel? How do you help a congregation that has lost everything? There is no way we could do enough for them. Even though it was months away, I immediately thought of Christmas. It is the most light-filled and joyous season for the church. We could make them Chrismon ornaments and gift them a tree. What a perfect gift! The gift of light and joy for those who are experiencing darkness and sadness."
Tina and her co-chair Kelsey McClure invited the congregation of Woodlawn to come together and make Chrismon ornaments. A tree was purchased.
Pastor of Ragan Chapel Danny Poss reports that the congregation was elated to receive the gift. "What an honor it was to receive this gift," he said. "We probably wouldn't have had a tree otherwise. We'll remember Woodlawn United Methodist every year through this gift. And it is so meaningful that the ornaments are handmade by the congregation at Woodlawn."
According to Woodlawn's senior pastor Rev. Emily Freeman Penfield, "Our congregation knows what it's like to lose your building, your worship items, your sacred space and supplies. I loved our outreach coordinators' idea of making and giving Chrismons because it was a gift of our hands, our hearts and our faith." The Woodlawn congregation suffered the loss of their sanctuary in a 2009 fire.
Poss has been amazed at the outpouring of support the church has received. "We've heard from a cross-section of United Methodist churches, but all denominations have been supportive," he said. "A pastor from a black Baptist church in Selma drove up here to hand me a donation from his church. I correspond with a pastor from Sweden regularly. I know more people now!"
"Hearing the amazing stories of recovery and healing from Pastor Danny, I knew Woodlawn's gift was a small part of God's larger work of restoration for Ragan Chapel," said Rev. Penfield.
While Ragan Chapel is meeting in a tent for now, the foundation is being poured this week. "We're planning to do the work in stages," said Poss. "After the foundation is done, the Carpenters for Christ group will lay out the frame and put up the walls. And we'll go from there."
Since the church only had liability insurance, the rebuilding will be up to them to finance. "This has been a faith-building time for me," said Poss. "God has shown up and opened doors at exactly the time they needed to be opened."
If you'd like to help Ragan Chapel rebuild, you can send a donation to 1443 Ragan Chapel Road, Ohatchee, AL 36271.