Hurricane-Proof Church Unbowed On Gulf Coast


“If I got stuck down there on the beach in a Category 4 hurricane that’s where I’d go,” said Auburn University researcher Joel Hayworth, who rode out Hurricane Isaac in the church last year.

Rev. Paul Smith didn’t even consider canceling worship services on a past Sunday when the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen were plowing through the Gulf of Mexico just off the horizon. Instead, he baptized a visitor in the Gulf after the 9 a.m. service, which was nearly full.

Smith said some worshippers even followed him down to water’s edge for the occasion; choir members sang from a balcony as the wind gusted to about 20 mph.

“That just put the icing on the cake,” said Smith. “The surf was sort of rough. I thought I was going to get baptized a couple of times.”

Romar Baptist’s history has been shaped by hurricanes. The church began in 1995, when a group organized by Smith and his missionary brother began meeting in a restaurant. They purchased an old beach house for $550,000 and converted it into a small church two years later, enclosing the deck to make an auditorium that seated 200.

Hurricane Ivan destroyed that church and much of surrounding Orange Beach in 2004, leaving only the sign.

“All we ever recovered was a table, two hymn books and the cross from over the pulpit. It was in the top of a tree about a half-mile away,” said Smith.

Developers were soon offering millions for the approximately 1.5-acre beachfront lot, which is near condominium towers and hotels, and the price reached $14 million before the congregation agreed to sell and relocate down the road. But the deal fell through after Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast again in 2005, so the handful of remaining members decided to borrow money and rebuild where the house had been.

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Posted by on Nov 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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