The Village of Middleburgh took another step forward on its road to recovery after Tropical Storm Irene with a rededication ceremony on Sunday for St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The historic building, which is situated in the middle of the community, had been flooded with four feet of water from the storm last summer. The church then operated for three months out of a newer addition and returned to its main sanctuary in December, with Sunday’s ceremony recognizing how far the community and the church had come.
“We’re back to where we were before,” said Gene Wyckoff, an attendee of the church, who described the ceremony as “emotional.”
The event began with interim pastor the Rev. Michael Tamorria blessing the congregation outside the church. He noted that the last time they had planned on being outside was during a picnic that was scheduled for when Irene hit.
“We have rebuilt and restored our facility,” Tamorria said. “Today we gather to rededicate this church building.”
The ceremony began with a bell choir and included multiple songs by the entire congregation that revolved around themes of overcoming challenges.
As part of the celebration, 13-year-old Kobe Gordon read a poem he wrote about Irene and the communities struggle to recover. “The water was rising higher and higher. All night I watched as my eyes grew tired … Everyone was worried about the dam. I was worried about my dad, the fireman,” he read to the silent crowd.
“Hand in hand we all stood tall. Helping our neighbors through it all,” Gordon said. “But we survived and we were stronger. We showed Irene that our existence will be longer.”
Afterwards, Gordon’s dad proclaimed proudly and unprompted that the poem had been written without any help.
Reflecting on the congregation’s journey, Tamorria stressed that the church is not defined by the status of its man-made structure. “The church is the people. It’s not the building. The church is you,” he said, as he addressed the congregation from the floor with children surrounding him. “We worshipped God even when we couldn’t use this part of the building.”
As evidence of the group’s perseverance and faith, Tamorria noted that at least a couple of children had been baptized in the adjacent building they had used for three months after the flood. “We had to improvise,” he joked.
Wyckoff spoke highly of the service and said the church community was fortunate to have reached this point where it is almost back to normal, with some members of the congregation still displaced from the flood. “We were just blessed with everything that happened after [Irene], with volunteers and financial support,” he said, noting that they had received more than $20,000 in donations to refurbish the church.
Following the service, there was a potluck dinner.
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Categories: Schenectady County