In March 2013, Pastor Linda Davis of Cedarville United Methodist Church noticed some ceiling tiles drooping in a small portion of the building. The church, built in 1867, is the second oldest church in the town of Cedarville.
When examiners looked at the ceiling, they discovered that it was actually composed of three ceilings: one acoustic, one tile, and one plaster-and-lathe ceiling. After 146 years of hot and cold temperatures with no insulation, more than half of the plaster-and-lathe ceiling had begun to crumble down onto the layers of ceiling below it.
When Davis went to the church district superintendent for Methodist churches in the area, the superintendent said that the church could no longer meet in a building with such an unstable ceiling. He instructed Davis to change all the locks on the building and put signs up so that no one would enter. Though the structure was never condemned, there was potential danger from the condition of the ceiling.
As Davis began to put the signs up, she prayed about where the church would meet the next week, even considering moving the service to the site of Second Act, the church’s clothing ministry in downtown Cedarville.
As she was walking through Cedarville, Davis was greeted by the pastor of the Cedarville United Presbyterian Church, who inquired as to what was happening. As soon as the words “I have no idea where we are going to have church on Sunday” left Davis’ mouth, Pastor Anne Horton replied, “Well, you’re going to have church in my church.”
The Presbyterian church has provided two large rooms with a piano and an organ for the Methodist church members to use. Davis said she was amazed and blessed by this instant answer to her prayer, acknowledging that Horton and her church have been very kind and generous in letting the Methodist church members meet in their building for as long as they need.
“Our congregation is old and small, and our people never lost faith,” Davis said.
“For a bunch of Methodists to walk into a Presbyterian church and have a service was a big deal to some of them,” she said. “These people were born here, they were baptized here, they were married here, they raised their children here, and they all want to be buried here. It was a big deal to walk out the door.”
Herman Randall, the 96-year-old patriarch of the church, tells Davis once a month that “he is not going to die until they can hold his funeral back in the church.”
“This isn’t just a building, this is my church,” Randall told Davis.
Davis said the church has been discovering some blessings in disguise that the temporary arrangements have provided.
“What we found was that in a room this size, we can hear each other sing and we can actually hear the organ and stay in time with each other,” Davis said.
Instead of the division often caused by the congregation spread out over a large sanctuary, the church body is discovering the benefits of close quarters, Davis said. They sit next to each other, touch each other, and pray holding hands. When someone is sick, they can gather around and lay their hands on them, and it feels real.
“Being here has been a tremendous time of spiritual growth, and the people have come to appreciate each other,” Davis said.
Since the move, the church has not lost any members and has even gained a new attendee.
“I think what Satan meant to destroy our congregation has actually been turned around by our willingness to be obedient to the Lord,” Davis said.
Within 24 hours of hearing the news about the church ceiling, Davis received messages of support from almost all of the churches in the Cedarville ministerial association.
This association is composed of pastors from eight churches in Cedarville. These churches have agreed to set aside their differences in the name of being Bible-believing, Bible-teaching born-again pastors and church members. Together, the group hosts five services for the community throughout the year. The association and the members have provided an excellent support system for Davis and her church during their time of need.
Moving forward in hopes of returning to the building, Davis called the insurance company, which paid to have all three ceilings removed but said they were concerned about the roof structure. Fixing the building the way the original engineers suggested would have involved a long process and over $100,000.
Davis went home that night a little discouraged.
“The older you get, you come to realize that you are not in charge,” Davis said.
She describes herself as a take-charge person. She prayed, “Lord, I have no idea what to do, and this is above my pay grade. You’re going to have to take care of this.”
The next morning, Davis called the disaster team from the Methodist Church Association. They came to examine the building and explained to Davis that the structure was a timber frame building, an old and rare style of construction.
Soon after, a man who had knowledge and experience with the timber-frame structure came to look at the building. When he climbed up to the rafters to look at the timber framing, he said, “This building’s not falling down.”
A second engineer confirmed that the structure was in great shape, and was not falling down. They suggested putting up a few more braces and a drywall ceiling in the church and painting it to look like plaster and lathe to keep the antique nature and character of the church.
The church is currently waiting for a third estimate on the repair costs, which Davis hopes to have by the end of March. After the estimate, the church will begin to raise funds to do the repairs. Davis is hoping to move back into the church by the end of fall 2014 at the latest.
“I have been welcomed and supported through this trial by the churches of Cedarville with open arms,” Davis said. “We have a unique blend of pastors here in Cedarville, and I think what blesses me the most is the unity that we have in Christ.”
Laura Jani is a junior nursing major and a reporter for Cedars. She enjoys a freshly brewed cup of coffee, learning the Spanish language and traveling to new destinations.
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