By Richard Taylor
Ocracoke United Methodist Church will have much to celebrate this Thanksgiving as the church returns to in-sanctuary services at 10 a.m. Sunday.
This milestone follows more than two years of fundraising and repairs since Hurricane Dorian flooded the 78-year-old building on Sept. 6, 2019.
Pastor Logan Jackson announced the long-anticipated reopening at last week’s service in the adjacent recreation hall.
“The church is a community of people, but for many there’s something about being in the church building that feels like home,” he said. “Getting back in this building will give us a sense of being home again. It’s also going to give us time to focus on things we care about for the community, to get back to what the church really should be working toward with our ministries.”
Initially guided by former pastor Susie Fitch-Slater, the church has struggled to raise funds needed to raise the building, replace electrical, flooring, walls and HVAC systems.
During that period, workers stabilized and raised the building, repaired sub-floors and repainted pews. A donated piano will be relocated from the rec hall into the sanctuary.
Over the last two years, joint services were held on the Ocracoke School porch, the Books to Be Red lawn, at Pastor Ivy Belch’s Life Saving Church, in the undamaged rec hall and outside the church during warmer summer months.
During his time as previous board chair, trustee Gary Davis was instrumental in securing many gifts and grants, including $50,000 from an English patron for a new, yet-to-be-installed organ, plus another $10,000 pledged this summer. Last week, he announced another $50,000 grant from the Duke Endowment.
“We depend on tourism to help in the summer, as many businesses do,” Davis said. “The operating fund has been somewhat under water all summer because we had fewer people in attendance. We were right on the edge before the Duke Endowment grant came through last week.”
Trustee chair Richard Waldrop said the cost of raising and repairing the church and Howard Street parsonage has cost more than $500,000.
“So far we haven’t taken out any loans,” he said. “We don’t owe anybody any money. I think we’ll have just enough to just finish the major repairs.”
In addition to front railings, some rear painting, trim and door installation remain to be done.
Flooring for office and lower classroom areas was salvaged from the Ocracoke Health Center after Dorian. Waldrop hopes to secure donations for office and classroom furniture and a conference table in the near future.
The church received a $13,000 donation specifically for carpeting in the sanctuary.
“The Lord willing, I hope the carpeting will go in by Christmas,” Jackson said. He urged patrons to bring something to sit on until new pew cushions are procured.
Wednesday morning, volunteers cleaned the sanctuary, reset pews and dressed the alter in preparation for the first service in the 1943 building for 26 months.
Later that day, the Hyde County building inspector issued a temporary certificate of occupancy with the stipulation that all must enter by two side entrances until Landmark Construction installs railings on new elevated front steps.