Members Hope to Reopen Tornado-damaged Church

NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- The tornado that tore through Lackawanna County on Tuesday has left a church with an uncertain future.

The church in Newton Township may have suffered enough damage that worshippers could have to move elsewhere while repairs are made.

Members of Countryside Community Church in Newton Township thought they had dodged a bullet.

"When I first pulled up, I saw that we had damage, but I was relieved to see what I thought was more superficial in nature," said Keith Eckel.

But then they walked inside and saw damage in places that couldn't be explained. ceiling tiles and lighting had fallen, there were cracks in the sanctuary walls, broken glass scattering the ground.

Members worried that Tuesday's tornado had twisted the building's structural integrity.

"Right now, we are having an evaluation done by our insurer and also a structural engineer to make certain that the building is safe to use," Eckel said.

Eckel says they're preparing for a lot of repairs inside the church and also out on the grounds.

The church has just purchased new picnic tables for its pavilion. All of them were blown away. Some of them ended up in a field, some of them are still missing.

"It is our prayer that we will be able to have our services here while that work is going on, and it is our prayer that this Sunday, we'll be able to be here at the church," said Eckel.

If those prayers are not answered, a Catholic church down the road has offered its building to Countryside Community Church in the meantime.

Eckel says no matter what, the engineers say he has faith the church will reopen.

"This was God's work and our congregation will put it back together again."

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