Magazine article The Christian Century

Tornado Survivors Celebrate Easter

Magazine article The Christian Century

Tornado Survivors Celebrate Easter

Article excerpt

Facing the flattened sanctuary of Goshen United Methodist Church near Piedmont, Alabama, approximately 200 people gathered in the parking lot April 3 for an ecumenical sunrise Easter service that celebrated life and the resurrection. Exactly a week earlier on Palm Sunday a tornado had brought the roof crashing onto the congregation, without warning, about midway through the service in this rural area of northeastern Alabama. Twenty people, including six children, were killed and at least 90 injured, according to United Methodist News Service.

Preceding the service, hugs and tears accompanied reunions among survivors. The church's minister, Kelly Clem, her face and eyes heavily bruised by flying debris during the whirling storm, read a scripture passage from the Book of Romans and gave the Easter children's message. Clem's four-year-old daughter, Hannah, was one of six children killed in the disaster.

The whole community was invited to the service, according to Herb Williamson, superintendent of the United Methodist Church's Anniston District, who also participated in the service. Many, like Clem, still bore marks of their physical injuries. Marcus Woods, 13, who came in a wheelchair, had lost his father and nine-year-old sister. "I just wanted to be here," he said. His mother remains in intensive care with a crushed pelvis and broken legs. "We are the Easter people," Bishop Robert Fannin of Birmingham told worshipers. "We believe that life has conquered death." A refrain from one of the hymns used in the half-hour service was "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. …

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