The April 27 tornado may have knocked down Mt. Peria Baptist Church on Sparks Street in Ringgold, but it did not weather the church's spirit.
"I preached, 'We are down but not out,'" pastor Jimmy Ingram said in reference to his Sunday sermon after the storm, which had to be held in the parking lot. "The building was destroyed, but not the church."
Cleanup crews are now clearing the church grounds in order to rebuild the worship facility. Church leaders estimate it will take six months or more to rebuild, but are unsure how much it will cost.
"We would like to build for the future a little larger," said deacon Paul Croft. "We will get an architect and see what we can afford to build. Everyone has been great to make donations."
While rebuilding the church, Mt. Peria members will meet weekly inside American Legion Williams-Napier Post 40 in Ringgold.
"We welcome visitors," said Croft. "Our doors are open. The building was destroyed, but the church is still going."
Croft said Mt. Peria enrolls 225 members from Chattanooga, Ringgold, Dalton and Walker County.
"The tornado brought us closer together as a congregation, community and city," said Ingram. "We canceled the church meeting the night of the tornado. If we had not, we would have been right there [in the midst of the tornado]."
Ingram said the American Legion Williams-Napier Post 40 members approached Mt. Peria leaders about meeting at their building. He said church members are grateful to be able to meet at the post.
"We will continue to be led by the spirit," said Ingram. "We look forward to the future and thank God for the past. Trouble will not last always. There is a light at the end of the tunnel."