FLORENCE — Crews are working to remove a tree that fell on the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, but the church pastor said worship will continue at the site.

First Presbyterian's Landis Williams said Tuesday night's storm blew the tree onto the roof and caused damage on and inside the sanctuary.

"You can see damage on the inside and outside," Williams said.

The church, at 224 E. Mobile St., is nicknamed the city's "mother church" because it is the oldest in Florence – established in 1818. Its first meeting house was a log structure erected that year. In 1824, a permanent meeting house was erected, and though the church has undergone several additions and renovations, it has continued to be a steadfast presence at its location. 

Church members recently completed a bicentennial celebration along with the city's 200th anniversary. There are valuable artifacts in the church dating to the church's inception, including an 1824 subscription list of people who pledged funds for construction.

In addition to its architecture, another iconic beauty of the church are its stained glass windows, which withstood the force of Tuesday night's storms.

Church pastor, the Rev. Brandon Miles, said the way the tree fell has its own story to tell.

"It looks like one branch broke off that would have been in the direct path of a window," he said. 

The tree fell in a way that, though inflicting damage to the church's sanctuary, did not break the glass in the windows, nor did it damage the columbarium.

"The damage was mainly in the sanctuary, through the side of it," Miles said. "We can't really tell a lot of what's damage until the tree is removed (and) . . . an engineer looks over the building."

He said there is water damage in the sanctuary as well as in the crawl space. 

"When you have something that large hit with that much impact, you're going to have damage," he said.

Tuesday's storm carried winds over 50 mph and downed numerous trees across the Shoals.

Miles expressed appreciation to members of the congregation and the community.

"The congregation and community have responded so positively . . . instead of being distraught and upset," he said. "We will keep worshiping . . . in the fellowship hall in the foreseeable future." 

And they will decide what to do with the remnants of the tree that is part of the church's history.

Miles said older members remember Easter egg hunts at the base of that tree.

"We've decided we're going to save part of the tree," he said.

-- TimesDaily City Editor Sherhonda Allen contributed to this report.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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