Richard Clark was woken by a phone call at his home around 6:30 a.m. Friday, April 19. It was a deacon from Dewberry Baptist Church, where Clark is also a deacon, telling him storms had toppled the steeple of the more than 150-year-old church in North Hall County.
Clark got out of bed, put on a yellow rain jacket, yellow rain pants and a pair of boots and headed to the hardware store to buy a tarp and some rope.
“As soon as I got things together, I was over here,” Clark said, standing outside the church.
He drove the 6 miles from his home to the church on Clarks Bridge Road and didn’t see any signs of a storm other than rain and leaves on the road.
The first damage he saw was about 50 yards from the church. A cypress tree had fallen and was leaning on a fence.
“We had a little bit of wind,” Clark said of the storm near his home. “But that tree was the first thing I saw.”
Then, through the windshield wipers on his truck, he saw the steeple, upside down and leaning on the church’s roof.
After seeing the steeple, he looked to his right and saw the activity building, which serves as the fellowship hall, across the road. A tree had fallen through the middle of it, cutting it in half down to the concrete floor.
He looked ahead and saw a tree leaning on the pastorium just down the road, too.
There was debris everywhere. The parking lot was green with leaves and the sides of the building were plastered with even more leaves that had been whipped up in the winds.
A basketball goal was broken and on its side in the grass, tangled up in what used to be a volleyball net.
Trees and limbs were down in the parking lot, but by about noon, the rain had cleared and Clark was out with a chain saw, cleaning up all he could.
He had some help from his son, Russ, and his brother, Jimmy, both members at the church. A few others were helping out, too.
“We’ve got some more members with some heavy equipment that are probably going to come,” Jimmy Clark said.
Before getting started on removing a limb that had fallen in the parking lot, Russ Clark was sharpening his chain saw on the back of a red Chevrolet truck. He said the steeple had been up since before he was born, sometime in the 1980s.
Richard Clark said he helped put the steeple up. He’s been a member at the church his whole life. It’s the only church he’s been a part of in his 64 years, and he said it holds a special place in his heart.
“This church means a lot to me, especially growing up in the church and seeing all the faces that grew up with me, and now we’re getting old,” Richard Clark said, laughing.
He could laugh because nobody was hurt at the church. He could smile because he knew the storm damage wouldn’t stop the 100-strong congregation from gathering at church in a few days for Easter.
“We’re going to be here Sunday morning,” Richard Clark said.
Carl Andreasen, evangelism pastor at the church, said that’s the part he’s most grateful for. The church building wasn’t damaged too badly, so they’re looking forward to gathering Sunday, even though they won’t be able to use the activity building for a while.
“Thankfully we’ll be able to have services inside the church,” Andreasen said. “But we’re going to have to get those trees up and see how we’re moving forward on the activity building.”
All the damage should be covered by insurance, and a new steeple will be on its way to the church soon.
Apart from the steeple, though, Dewberry Baptist Church stood strong. There were no leaks in the roof. Each stained-glass window was still intact. Every pew inside was accounted for, each golden chandelier still hanging and a cross near the altar, draped with purple fabric, was still standing.
“We’re going to make it,” Richard Clark said. “We’re good.”