Friendswood, Texas pastor says the sanctuary is the only room that is dry after pipes burst during winter freeze
By Lindsay Peyton
A winter storm hit Texas this week, leaving millions without electricity and water. Friendswood UMC was no exception. Not only did the church lose power, but pipes burst, resulting in extensive water damage. In the midst of the disaster, church members stepped up to save their house of worship.
Rev. Jim Bass received a notice from the fire department at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 17. The church’s fire suppression system was going off, and the pastor rushed to the building to find almost the whole building flooded.
“It was literally raining in the foyer,” Bass said.
Inside, multiple pipes burst. “The nursery was just a disaster,” Bass added. “In the music warm up room, we opened the door, and a wall of water poured out.”
About 6-inches of water was in the foyer and the rest of the building. The sanctuary was the only room that remained dry. Still, water from the hallways ran down into the altar.
Bass was heartbroken. He ran home for supplies and quickly composed an email to congregants. “We need help,” he wrote. “If you have a push broom, we need you.”
Church members clean up in the dark
Within a half hour, at least 50 people showed up. “And they kept coming,” Bass said. “They were pushing water out with brooms and squeegees. They were cleaning up as much as they could and moving things.”
A baby grand piano in the music warm-up room was placed in the sanctuary for protection. Furniture and equipment were placed in the choir loft to stay dry.
“They worked until close to dark,” Bass said. “It was starting to freeze outside.”
The members worked in limited light since the church lost power. Some of the rooms were dark. Bass explained that a number of the church members still do not have electricity themselves. Still, they showed up to help the congregation.
“It was incredible everyone just came out and got to work,” Bass said. “Groups organized themselves and tackled different areas.”
The pastor said that the extensive damage will require a number of future modifications. “We’re going to be out of the building for at least six to nine months,” he said. “They’re going to have to find a way to rebuild the fire suppression system.”
In addition, Friendswood will be working with insurance to cover the costs of the damage. For now, the church is making decisions about Sunday. “We’re going to have worship one way or another,” Bass said.
He explained that the old sanctuary was recently renovated and is used primarily for youth worship. This weekend, it will return to its prior role and host contemporary and traditional services.
In the meantime, Bass is reminded of the children’s hymn, “The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a meeting place, the church is a people.”
“This is a living example,” he said. “The church is all the people. They showed up to protect the building where they have grown in their faith, but they literally were the church at that moment.”