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Church destroyed by Hurricane Michael is on the rebound

November 28, 2020 GMT

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — More than two years after Hurricane Michael hit Florida’s Panhandle, members of the First United Methodist Church are back in their sanctuary in time for the holiday season.

When the building reopened, Senior Pastor Jeremy Pridgeon described it as Easter in November, the News Herald reported. He told the newspaper they had to have an extra service on the first day back in the sanctuary to accommodate the large crowd.

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The Category 5 hurricane destroyed much of the church in October 2018, and then COVID-19 kept parishioners away.

“It is a joyous occasion, marking another step on the road to rebuilding and recovering, not only for our congregation, but for Panama City and Bay County,” Pridgeon said. “It also has brought back lots of memories, as this space is where many were baptized, were married, and where they gathered to remember loved ones who have passed away.”

The only part of the campus not destroyed by the storm was the Community Life Center, which became the center of all operations until spring, when the pandemic hit. To avoid large gatherings, the church then began using the chapel and the Trinity Center, which had been repaired from hurricane damage.

Pridgeon said the reconstruction was a multi-million dollar reconstruction project. He said there is now a deep sense of belief that greater things are yet to come for the church, the city and the entire area.

“It would have been very easy to throw in the towel, but the church did not,” Pridgeon said.