175-year-old Southport church tries to bounce back from Florence

175-year-old Southport church tries to bounce back from Florence

SOUTHPORT, NC (WECT) - A church with more than a century of history was damaged by Hurricane Florence, and the storm left members scrambling for places to have services.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church’s three buildings in Southport were waterlogged, forcing church members to gut parts of the buildings, and replace roofs.

The good news is they won’t have to tear down any of the three buildings. The bad news is water destroyed most of the historic documents and files from the church’s 250-year history.

St. Philip’s has been at the location in Southport for 175 years after moving from its spot in Brunswick Town.

Reverend Canon Jim Hanisian said the first Sunday after Florence, church officials didn’t realize the condition of the church and had service in the sanctuary before finding mold hiding behind the walls.

“Mother Nature does what Mother Nature wants to do,” Junior Warden Bill Bittenbender said.

Bittenbender is overseeing the rebuilding process.

The next two weeks after Florence, they had services in a tent in the parking lot, and now, services are held at the Moose Lodge a few miles down the road.

Hanisian said in the midst of trying to repair their place of worship, his congregation fed those in need.

“Anybody who is in the helping business realizes very quickly, in helping others, you help yourself," Hanisian said. “It’s strengthening and inspiring and helpful that way. I think the harder part for ourselves is to think of ourselves as needing the help of the community to get back in here.”

According to Hanisian, the congregation has grown each week.

All three of the roofs and the insides of the buildings are expected to be repaired. Groups across the country have made donations to help with renovation, but the price tag isn’t cheap. Church leaders estimate repairs will cost close to $1 million.

As far as a timeline for when those repairs will be done, church leaders said they don’t have one.

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