Church far from normal, but keeps the faith

A page from a hymnal lies on the floor of Cove Baptist Church’s sanctuary. 

Light streams in through the windows in what now looks like a big barn.

Gone after Hurricane Ike are the pews, office furniture, a piano and a $50,000 organ.

Some of the walls are torn out, but that stray hymnal page, “He Is My Pilot,” is indicative of the faith captured in this 67-year-old house of God.

“We know we’re going to get back,” says Deacons’ chairman Chuck Burch. “We’re not sure when, but we’ll take it a step at a time. The Lord opened the door and we’re going to bring it back to what it ought to be.”

On a clear cold day in December, one can’t hear the Sabine River that lies just beyond a clump of trees.

That wasn’t the case when Ike came through.

Services now take place in the fellowship hall, which is actually closer to the water than the sanctuary, but built in 1995 under newer elevation standards.

Like most churches, the Cove front office is dealing with insurance companies. It was already on a tight budget before the storm and the final payment will likely come down to small business quibbles that can make a big difference in recovery. Cove Baptist, however, has another problem.

It’s been without a pastor since before the Ike, Burch says, so it’s imperative to fix the parsonage first in order to attract a new minister. The Rev. Billy Hutson of Deweyville, formerly with Calvary Baptist in West Orange and now retired, has been a guest preacher on occasion.

Burch says the church has received a few resumes.

Most of the church’s buildings suffered roof damage during Rita in 2005. The main foe during Ike was saltwater, which brought as much as five feet into Cove homes and structures.

“If rainwater gets on a wall, it might spot a little but you can prime it and go on,” Burch says. “But when you get that saltwater in it, everything mildews. It doesn’t dry out good and you’ve got to get in there and spray it and kill as much as you can.”

As far as damage estimates, “it’s hard to say,” he says. “We have no earthly idea what it’s going to cost to fix it … and naturally we’re like a lot of churches; we’re short of funds.

Despite what one may think, not all Cove Baptist Church members live in the Cove.

Burch says, “Since we were established back in the second world war, we have more people scattered across town than in the [Cove] community. We have some in West Orange, some north of town (Orange) and some in the immediate vicinity.”

The church is the only enduring place of worship in the Cove area, and has about 300 members.

Burch, who lives in the Cove “down the road apiece,” says he and other members were able to get in and survey damage only a few days after the storm.

“Once the water started going down, it went down fast,” he says.

“In the lower areas right on the marsh, it stood for awhile. I still had water in my backyard for four to five days.”