NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Strong gusts of wind brought to the area by Tropical Storm Isaias caused part of the First Baptist Church of Lambert’s Point to collapse Tuesday morning, Norfolk fire officials say.
The church was founded in 1893 and sits in the 1200 block of W. 38th Street at Bluestone Avenue. A Lambert’s Point resident who lives across the street from the church told 10 On Your Side that he was awakened from his sleep between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. when he heard “what sounded like a bomb.”
Sgt. Will Pickering confirmed that Norfolk first responders got their first call for service at the church around 7 a.m.
When the church collapsed, debris fell onto a gas meter, causing a leak. Virginia Natural Gas was on the scene Tuesday morning to repair the damage, according to Norfolk Fire-Rescue.
10 On Your Side spoke to churchgoer George Pender who came by to see the damage. He has attended the First Baptist Church of Lambert’s Point for 30 years. He was first introduced to the church when he was a child by his grandmother who was a longtime Lambert’s Point resident.
“It’s just nature that took place,” Pender said.
Pender said that the church is made up of three buildings. The wall that collapsed was part of the oldest section of the building. It was once the church’s sanctuary, and the missing wall has exposed the old choir loft.
Pender said services are now held in the newer part of the building. The section that was damaged was in the process of being transformed into a performing arts center and hadn’t been used since the new sanctuary was built in 2002.
“The structure that fell down used to be stone glass, and we stopped using this side of the church and moved to the new side,” Pender said. “The windows were stone and they started to crack, so it was an eye sore to ride past the church and see broken glass. So we decided as a church to cover it up. So that’s what you see that has fallen down.”
The building has changed congregations over the years. For decades, First Baptist has called it home.
“When I came here in 1990, that was the sanctuary,” said Pastor Anthony Paige, referring to the old part of the building that was damaged. “That was the first pulpit I stood in.”
“I don’t call it Mother Nature,” Paige added. “I call it God and I think it’s amazing what God can do. And I know that God is going to take this building and he is going to bring it to another level.”
Pender said it’s painful to see his home church damaged by Isaias, but he believes church leadership will fix what has been damaged.
“We’re going to rebuild… This is history here,” Pender said. “This is the church where everybody’s somebody. Everybody’s welcome because nobody’s perfect. It’s a church that’s made up of people just like you and I, so come and just keep us in your prayers. But we’re going to rebuild. We’ll be back.”
Paige was told it could cost $200,000 to fix.
“We are going to fix what was broken,” Paige added. “That’s been broken before, and we are going to fix it. We’re [going] to fix it.”
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