NEW MARKET — Churchgoers in New Market had their faith rattled last June following a magnitude 3.8 earthquake in nearby Parke County.
The only structure reported damaged in Montgomery County due to the quake, which was felt as far away as Michigan and Missouri, was the First Baptist Church’s 19th Century sanctuary. It was deemed unsafe after tremors cracked walls, displaced rafters and fast-forwarded other issues related to aging wooden structures.
“It racked the church. It just exacerbated any problems,” Pastor Todd Randles said of the church established more than 230 years ago. “The building is safe now. DK Construction came in and they basically made the repairs and kept it from getting worse.”
For nearly seven months, members have met in the facility’s adjacent Harmony Hall. But now church members and staff are eagerly anticipating the full use of their facility on Jan. 30 following the restoration efforts and inspections by a structural engineer.
Steel reinforcements added to the building’s infrastructure and framework cinched back into place have allowed for a “best case scenario,” Randles said, in lieu of the costly alternatives of temporary roof removal and razing.
“ServiceMaster is coming in to clean and get everything detailed for us. After that we’ll get all the equipment and furniture moved back in,” he said. “We’re looking forward to doing a grand reopening to do a big celebration that we were able to get back in here, which is not what we thought was going to happen.”
The Amish-owned construction company was able to help administrators repair the building at a fraction of the cost of traditional construction crews, he added.
Others proving instrumental in the efforts have been treasurer Nancy Powers, sound engineer Tim Dugger and deacon chairman Paul Buckles, who volunteered time and resources to get the church back in action.
“To show that we can have a small church but have the resiliency to bounce back, and say, ‘God’s in control, we’re just trying to do what he’s called us to do,’ that’s the goal,” Randles said.
Though numbers in membership have seen a slight drop since the quake — and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — Randles’s and his congregation’s faith has been shaken but not lost.
“The church is the people; you’re not married to the building,” he said. “But it has that sentimental value. ‘I grew up in church here.’ At some point down the road if we build a new sanctuary or a whole new church somewhere, they’re fine with that.”
Donations to recoup renovation costs and further improve the structure’s integrity will continue to be accepted through the congregation’s return. Those interested in donating may do so by visiting www.newmarketfbc.org, or by check sent to P.O. Box 87, New Market, IN 47965. Checks may also be dropped off at the church, located at 208 S. First St. in New Market.
Those with questions may call the church at 765-866-0083.
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