In 2014, Bishop Roosevelt Richard, who had started a small nondenominational church in Georgia in 2006, returned to his mother’s hometown of Franklin and established the Secret Place Family Worship Center out of a house on Railroad Street.

With a congregation of 20 to 25 people, the church had a goal of one day erecting a new building. Richard and his wife saved up some money, and along with member donations and a loan from an area bank, a little blue building at 510 Park St. in Franklin became a new home for the church in September 2017.

Then an EF-3 tornado hit Franklin on Saturday.

At the house on Railroad Street, the roof had been torn off. The building had been lifted off its foundation and set back down, sustaining significant water damage. At the Park Street building, the sanctuary had been destroyed. Richard’s office had caved in, as had the bathrooms. The roof was gone. All the congregation’s equipment and instruments for worship services were soaked, rendered useless, Richard said. The building, too, had been lifted off its foundation.

“When I saw it, my heart was broken,” the pastor said. “We had worked so hard and put a lot into that church.”

Instead of hosting a sermon, Richard and his congregation spent Sunday trying to clean up the scraps of their structures. Another local church, South New Hope Baptist, has offered to let Richard conduct his sermons in their sanctuary starting in May. But as for this coming Sunday, there will be no Easter service for Secret Place.

“To be honest with you, I’m not ready for that right now,” Richard said.

The clergyman hopes he can raise money to rebuild, but his initial estimate of the cost of damages totals up to approximately $320,000, and the church hasn’t yet received any monetary support from outside organizations. Richard said the church is accepting donations, and those interested can visit their website at secretplacefwc.com.

Not far across Texas 79, another church with a congregation of 15 also received a devastating blow. The members of St. Joseph Church of God in Christ haven’t even been in their new building on Calvert Street a full month before the storm hit.

In fact, the new sanctuary wasn’t even constructed; Pastor John H. Ealoms had been holding services in the cafeteria space. Before the move, the members of St. Joseph’s had met either in a nearby building with no restroom facilities, or in the home of Ealoms’ aunt-in-law. Ealoms said the group of 15 had been saving up money for years, the cost so far of new construction tallying to more than $180,000.

“The tornado pulled everything from a house that was next door to the church and threw it inside the church,” Ealoms said. “It’s wind-damaged, and the frame is damaged. The doors have been torn out. It picked some walls off the concrete and set them back down. Everything on the right side of the building has to be taken down now.”

The church’s chairs, instruments and pieces of equipment were salvaged, as were major appliances and the kitchen and pantry cabinets. But damages to just one side of the church were roughly estimated to cost $85,000 or more, and the church had yet to start on the $65,000 construction of a new sanctuary that was planned. A GoFundMe page, which can be found at http://bit.ly/Franklinchurch, has been started to raise $200,000,and is being shared publicly by the Texas Southwest Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, a regional division of the international Church of God in Christ.

Ealoms said the congregation will meet at his aunt-in-law’s home for Easter services this weekend.