PLYMOUTH TWP. -- For one area congregation, Christmas has finally found its way back home.
This church has been through a lot, but we always bounce back, said Beverly Vietz, a member of the Calvary United Methodist Church in West Nanticoke. Two fires, two major floods, small floods here and there – and we're still here.
This will be the first time since 2010 that Calvary is able to hold its holiday services in its building on East Poplar Street, an area that is no stranger to flooding. The structure was inundated with the Susquehanna River during the fall of last year, the water mark on the outside hitting just underneath the second-story windows.
But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the small congregation of about 50 members pressed on to renovate the place of worship themselves, never once letting the river water dampen their spirits.
What struck me the most when I came here, said Pastor George Price, who began at Calvary in July, was the enthusiasm that this group of people had for the church.
The church consists of not only the sanctuary, but also a room for Sunday school, an office, furnace room and kitchen area. All of this saw 3 to 4 feet of water, which ruined major appliances, carpeting, and all of the pews.
Like so many people in the area at the time, the parishioners were almost positive the flooding wouldn't be as bad as that of 1972, so they only did what they were accustomed to when heavy rains came through.
If we had known, we would have moved out our refrigerators, our stoves, Vietz said. Instead, when we came back in, we found that the refrigerators had actually floated all the way to the front door. Our gas tank on the outside picked right up and ended up in the neighbor's yard. We had put things on the pews, thinking they would be safe, but they weren't.
Bernice West, now in her 80s and a church member her whole life, had never seen anything like it.
It was absolutely heartbreaking, she said of her first glance at the damage Calvary sustained.
Though the parishioners were downtrodden at first, that feeling remained for a short period of time. The members immediately banded together to figure out how to get the church back on its feet.
Renovations began in February of this year, with help from $50,000 of insurance money the church members weren't even aware they had.
It was a godsend, Vietz said.
The church was gutted to the bare studs, the panel walls replaced with sheetrock and all carpeted floor replaced with tile, save the sanctuary area and front steps.
The first service was held Feb. 19 though it was in the smaller room off the sanctuary that now serves as a classroom for Calvary's Sunday school. The first time members stepped into the sanctuary was for Easter services in April, though even then everything was still a work-in-progress.
As you can see, there isn't any carpeting at all, Vietz said as she looked at photographs of the church's appearance mid-remodel. It was bare, no pews. We had chairs; we still have chairs. We're actually still in the process of looking for pews.
A small inconvenience, considering the rest of the property is pretty much back in order, except for some work to be done in a closet and part of the kitchen area.
It's about time we're back here, Vietz said with a smile as she walked into services yesterday morning.
A tree of blue and white shone bright in one corner of the church, illuminating those who had worked so hard to ensure its place by the altar for the season, a congregation that Vietz called more like family, all happy to be home for the holidays.