'We're coming back.' Leaders of St. John AME vow to rebuild after March 2020 tornado

St. Johns AME destroyed in March tornado
Posted at 8:22 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 11:36:48-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s been a year since Tennessee’s oldest African Methodist Episcopal church was damaged by a tornado.

St. John A.M.E and many other homes in the North Nashville community were destroyed.

“Tornadoes are not fair. It hit us but didn’t bother some neighboring buildings,” St. John A.M.E Church Pastor Lisa Hammonds said.

When the tornado struck, the church relied on other places of worship in the community like New Covenant Christian Church to be a tornado relief center to help victims.

“People from everywhere in the world came here to get food and to get supplies. We were literally partnering with every group you can think of,” New Covenant Christian Church Social Justice Minister Teresa Smallwood said.

Eventually, the St. John A.M.E building was demolished in the summer of 2020. It was too damaged to be repaired. All that’s left is the church sign, a mailbox, and a blessing box with food to give to people in need.

“We have come a long way in the last year for such a significant loss,” Pastor Hammonds said.

The lot is currently being used as a place to remember Tennessee COVID-19 victims -- each star represents a life lost.

In the eyes of Teresa Smallwood, it’s more than an empty lot. It’s sacred ground.

“It was a place where people, families, communities, and connections to this community have been for hundreds of years. More importantly it was a place of sacredly.” Minister Smallwood said.

St. John A.M.E has been around for 150 years and has served this North Nashville community for more than 60 years.

Pastor Hammonds says there’s more work to do.

“We’re coming back,” Pastor Hammonds said.

Pastor Lisa Hammonds and the congregation haven’t stopped serving their community.

Pastor Hammonds wants people living in the 37208 area code to know there may not be any walls standing, but St. John A.M.E’s mission to serve is stronger than ever.

“Until the building is here the neighborhood needs to know we’re still present. We’re still relevant,” Pastor Hammonds explained.

Pastor Hammonds has taken time to reflect on what happened and what she wants for the future.

In this new year, she’s ready to start making plans to rebuild.

“We will begin looking at what a physical building will look like to match those visions, values, and mission going forward,” Pastor Hammonds said.

It’s going to take a lot work to build the church back, but Pastor Hammonds keeps the faith it’s going to happen.

“Don’t give up hope for we believe I’m a God who will bring us through. Our latter will be greater than our former,” Pastor Hammonds said.

Pastor Hammonds said church members may be physically separated through virtual worship, but they try hard to stay spiritually connected.

To keep up with Saint John A.M.E and their rebuilding process follow their social media page. Click here for more information.