Ringgold First Baptist celebrates new beginnings
RINGGOLD, CATOOSA COUNTY (WRCB) -- Last week, Ringgold First Baptist Church replaced its steeple after the April 27th storms ripped it from the rooftops.
Dozens of churchgoers watched while engineers replaced it carefully, piece by piece.
Sunday, church members gathered for service to reflect on the road to recovery and new beginnings.
A large crowd fills the sanctuary at First Baptist Church in Ringgold Sunday morning. The pastor attributes it to the steeple, saying its presence lured people in. The new steeple marks the last step in reconstruction for the church. The choir, congregation even the pastor seem to smile wider Sunday Morning.
"Another step in recovery," says pastor, Jimmy Bailiff. The reason has everything to do with the beautiful white steeple displayed on top of the building.
"Our pastor put it pretty well," says church member, Trish White. "He said maybe the steeple reminded people to come to church. We were pretty packed out this morning."
Like the rest of the town, First Baptist Ringgold suffered severe damage during the April tornado outbreak.
"The roof had holes in it, we had tarps everywhere," says Bailiff. "The steeple was in the yard."
After the storm, the church became a staging area for volunteers and power crews. All the while church leaders assessed their own damage.
"The steeple was such an important bastion for Nashville Street," Bailiff says.
Broken windows and other repairs were completed this summer. Then came months of waiting and insurance negotiations, until a shiny new steeple finally arrived.
"People will come in now and say, 'Oh I can see it from so far away'," says Bailiff. "It helped restore the landscape of the town."
The steeple marks the final step towards recovery for the congregation, but as Bailiff says it also represents healing.
"It's good to see the healing for our town," says White. "It's like another piece of normal is back in place."
The new steeple is true to the church's colonial design, and stands a few feet and taller than the last. It arrived in Ringgold six months to day after the tornadoes hit.
Rain initially delayed raising it, but construction crews completed the project last Wednesday.