Portland church opens after tornado

Posted at 6:24 PM, May 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 08:25:38-04

Eleven months ago, a tornado ripped through Portland and people there remember it like it was yesterday.

"It looked like a war zone through town. It just was," said Pat Durrant. "Couldn't believe it. The trees were gone, three churches were destroyed."

One of those churches was the historic First Congregational Church. It was so desperately destroyed that it had to be torn down, just days after they added a new steeple.

"You could see there's no way it was going to be saved and that brand new steeple that had just gone up was laying in the middle of the sanctuary and it was like ripping our hearts out" said Mary Rice of First Congregational Church.

All they could do was watch the steeple and their newly restored bell, lay in rubble--silenced.

But the bell rang again Sunday as the congregation returned.

"It's absolutely marvelous. It's been a long road. Everybody has done such a wonderful job" Durrant said.

Pastor Danielson said it was a road that needed to happen for the over 100-year-old church.

"We didn't know that there was nothing holding the floors up when the church was destroyed," said Rev. Dr. Marilyn Danielson. "We found that there were structural things underneath the historic building."

Pastor Danielson said the aging building was falling apart, "The beams were powder. Probably infested by termites maybe 75 years ago," she said. "[The contractor] told us we were walking on air he said there was nothing holding us up."

But eleven months later and hours put into the rebuild, "everything is state of the art in the building from the ground up" Pastor Danielson said.

Even though everything is new, the building is nearly a replica of the original 1877 church.

"It's almost like being back in the old building but it's like bigger and better and it's magnified," said Rice. "God touched us, he truly did."

Now they're hoping to spend another 100 years in the building.