A Joplin church celebrated a new beginning in a new location almost exactly two years after the May 22, 2011 tornado turned their religious world, and for some, their whole world, upside down.
Donald Wiese, a charter member of the Peace Lutheran Church, remembered the first service in Peace Lutheran's first building at 20th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
On Sunday, May 19, he attended the first service in Peace Lutheran's new building on St. Louis Avenue.
Wiese, who worked for Carthage's Steadley Corporation for 17 years before retiring, talked about how his own home was destroyed in the Joplin tornado, as he stood next to a plant that was salvaged from the wreckage of the Wisconsin Avenue church, yet survived to live in the new church.
“I lived in Carthage for a while and finally moved back to Joplin last year,” Wiese said. “This new building is nice, really nice.”
Pastor Katharine Redpath was not pastor when the tornado struck. The church had been between pastors and was being led by interim pastor Bill Pape, who escaped the destruction of the old building only because he decided to take a walk instead of returning to do some work.
She took over a homeless congregation, which had accepted an offer from the Bethel Presbyterian Church in Joplin to use their church building, a few weeks after the tornado.
On Sunday, for the first time, she led Peace Lutheran's congregation through a service in their own building.
“It was awesome. I choked up out here in the welcome area,” Redpath said. “I first did the blessing out in the welcome area and we did that intentionally, did the blessing out there, the house blessing. We've been doing house blessings for people who lost their homes and I said this needs its own blessing. We did a ground breaking, we did the house blessing this morning, we'll do a dedication later in June.”
Redpath told the congregation in her sermon that they should be happy to have their own place, but they also needed to remember not to sit in this place, but to reach out and minister to the community.
“This is the culmination of the building part of it, now it's like, okay, we can't settle here this is where we have to move out of here.,” Redpath said. “But to have the building back again is just super. It's huge for the people, they need a place to say this is where we gather and this is where we get nourished and this is where we go from. It's been a long journey.”