Jacksonville church reopens storm damaged sanctuary

by: Erica Bennett, Action News Jax Updated:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Leak after leak lets water pour into Bethel Baptist Church back in October.

“Hurricane Matthew was a doozie,” Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. said.

While other churches downtown went unscathed, Bethel took a beating. It was so bad that the congregation had to move next door to the original sanctuary, which dates back decades. 

“Cramped, hot. The pews over there are pure wood. No cushion. Because you have to remember, this sanctuary was built in 1904,” McKissick continued.

Two months and thousands of dollars later, members will be back in their main worship center, starting Saturday during the New Year's Eve service.

“To see it now, you'd never know how bad it really was," McKissick said.

On Wednesday, McKissick gave Action News Jax a behind-the-scenes look at some of the restoration.

The construction timeline was a big plus. McKssick says the temporary setback allowed them to build a new and improved church and along with it, gratitude.

“Here we are. Faster than we expected. We were thinking January, February. Always be thankful for your history, and that sometimes your history becomes helpful to your present,” McKissick said with a smile.

In addition to repairs, Bethel is rolling out some new upgrades--including a state-of-the-art lighting system.