Since 1906, Mt. Peria Baptist Church has always stood on the same site in Ringgold; until last year on April 27 when a tornado tore down the structure - and many others - at 341 Sparks St.
Almost one year later, the congregation is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony March 31 at 11 a.m. at the former site. The short presentation led by Mt. Peria's the Rev. Jimmie Ingram is open to the community.
"We are rebuilding the church," said deacon Allen Smith, of Ringgold. "It will be an old-fashioned groundbreaking with shovels."
He said Mt. Peria has hired contractor Dennis M. King Enterprise of Ringgold. Construction on the new building should begin March 28 and is estimated to be completed in six to nine months depending on weather conditions. The new building will span 1,900 square feet. The former building was approximately 1,400 square feet.
"I've gone to Mt. Peria for 30 years," said Smith. "It was hard to believe the devastation in Ringgold. It was hard to get to the building site because trees and power poles were down."
He said the community and other churches in the area have been supportive of the church financially and through volunteer efforts to clean up debris after the storm. He said the process of rebuilding took time due to architectural renderings, hiring a contractor and ramping up fundraising efforts.
"We are ready to get started now," said Smith. "It will be a brick and rock building with a drive-thru at the front entrance with a glass front. We will put in more parking spaces too."
Looking back on one year ago, Smith still remembers that fateful April day. He was at his home in Ringgold on Chapman Road a mile and a half from the church. He said the tornado did not touch his home, but he took shelter in his closet.
He said last spring the congregation began meeting at American Legion Post 40 in Ringgold weekly for worship. The congregation will continue to meet at the Post Wednesdays and Sundays until the rebuild is complete.
"I would like the community to come to the groundbreaking," said Smith. "We invited the mayor and the city council. We think we will have a large crowd. We invited the churches in the area to come too."