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OK church rebuilds

The two-year anniversary of a devastating tornado in Moore, Okla., was a momentous occasion for one congregation.

BY HEATHER MOYER | MOORE, Okla. | May 3, 2005


"Those crosses in front of church actually survived the storm, and we worshipped in front of them that first Sunday after the storm."

—C.D. Payne


The two-year anniversary of a devastating tornado in Moore, Okla., was a momentous occasion for one congregation.

Sunday marked the dedication of a new building for the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The tornado completely destroyed the old church building, along with numerous other homes in the area.

Sunday’s service was joyful, and filled with tears at some points. “I think we covered all of the emotions,” said the Rev. Joe Wingfield, pastor at First Christian Church. “It was a very emotional service.”

Wingfield said more than 200 people gathered at the dedication ceremony, including representatives from the city council and the city’s chamber of commerce. This church dedication is a major step in the recovery of the community and the congregation, but Wingfield added that the healing will continue.

“I think the healing is still happening, but they’ve experienced a lot of healing so far,” he noted.  “I think once they got back into this building, it was kind of like, ‘we’re back home now,’ and I think that helped a lot.” 

Wingfield just started serving the church a little over a week ago. Several former pastors of the church attended the service as well.

For those members of the congregation who have belonged to First Christian Church for years, Sunday’s dedication was a milestone.

“It is definitely a rebirth,” said C.D. Payne, a church trustee and member of the building committee. A member of the church since the early 1960s, Payne has seen a lot happen in the church’s life, yet he says this rebuilding process is a time when he definitely saw God acting through his fellow church and community members.

“I got emotional when I introduced the rebuilding chairman at yesterday’s service,” Payne said. “He brought us from a heap of ashes to a completely new facility. I feel that God calls people to do certain things – and this man was there to do this.”

Yvonne Latta, the church’s administrative assistant, echoed Wingfield’s sentiment.  “We’re finally back in our home now,” said Latta, a member of the church for 40 years.  “It’s wonderful.”

The new building is larger than the old one – and even resembles a church this time, said Latta. The old building looked more like an office building to most of the community, she added. What does remain the same is that the new church is built in the same place as the old one.

Payne said that another important feature that remains from the old building is the three crosses that stand out front.

“Those crosses in front of church actually survived the storm, and we worshipped in front of them that first Sunday after the storm,” he explained. “So we saved them and they are a prominent part of our church, because they’re a trophy we should save.”

First Christian Church’s role in the community after the storm was prominent despite having lost the entire building. Payne said they assisted families who also lost their homes. He added that the church was also the recipient of extensive help as well.

“We received gifts from all over the country, it was a very generous outpouring of love to our church,” said Payne, noting that all the monetary donations they received helped build the new church. 

With the new building comes hope for the new life of the church. Latta says the church has always been a busy place, and will remain a busy place. Payne said he was happy to see former church members at yesterday’s service, a sign he hopes means that these folks will be returning to life with First Christian Church. He also saw many new faces.

“The next thing for the church is to grow and do what were put here on earth to do,” he said. “I fully expect the congregation to grow.”

And to Payne, that growth will not only be in members, but also in the congregation’s continuing strength. 

“We have persevered.”


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