NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For 115 years, East End United Methodist Church has stood on the corner of Holly and 13th streets in East Nashville. It's been host to thousands of Sunday services, baptisms and weddings. Now church leaders are preparing for a funeral.
"Our efforts really revolved around doing whatever we could to save the sanctuary," said Rev. Scott Marshall-Kimball, senior pastor at East End UMC.
Every architect and engineer told them the same thing; it would be too costly and dangerous to restore. Instead, they have to completely rebuild. "It was just a sad confirmation of really the damage that’s been done and a reminder of the pain of March 2020," said Rev. Marshall-Kimball.
It will be replaced with a new structure that will have plenty of odes to the old. "As many of the bricks and stonework that we can salvage to make a part of this new building, as possible," the pastor told NewsChannel 5.
That includes a beloved stained glass window called "The Good Shepherd" that was shattered by the storm. "It was the most heavily damaged of all the windows, so there was a lot of fragments of glass but there were still some pieces that could be salvaged," said Rev. Marshall-Kimball.
But with Dennis Harmon as their stained-glass shepherd, they shall not want. "Most of this glass that you see here and that pile over there was on the floor, draped over the pews, shattered," Harmon said. He's President of Emmanuel Studio, a renowned stained glass shop.
Piece by piece, the team at Emmanuel has been able to get the broken remnants of several windows inside the church, back to their former glory, using some of the same techniques used to make the windows 115 years ago. "Painted and fired on the glass, which is a technique that has been the same for nearly 1,000 years," said Harmon.
Harmon and church leaders are still working out how the fully restored window will look, but they know it will somehow pay tribute to the tornado. "You want to have some sort of message in there to tell the viewers, look what I’ve been through," said Harmon
Because when you're mourning a loss, it's important to remember. Then, give thanks for new life. "Even when times are hard and tragedies happen, God does work within those times," said Rev. Marshall-Kimball. "There’s some relief and some hope in the ability to turn over a new leaf and start rebuilding here in East Nashville."
Between FEMA and insurance payments, the church has some of the money it needs to rebuild, but still needs another $1.5 million to afford it. If you'd like to help them with their capital campaign, you can make a donation here.