PORTLAND, Mich.- Four churches in Portland were damaged to varying degrees in Monday’s tornado that struck the small Ionia County town. First Congregational, Portland United Methodist, First Baptist and Epic Community Church have all been damaged that they will not be able to host services in the foreseeable future. Leaders of the four churches met Tuesday morning and decided they will not only share space, but share a message. Starting this Sunday, the four will host one joint church service inside Portland High’s Auditorium, starting at 10am.
“It’s exciting to come to get together at a time of need like this as a worship community,” said Keith Treman, lead Pastor at Portland United Methodist Church. “We can share each other’s burdens and realize we’re all in the same boat together but we all have bigger hope. I’m excited to see what happens,” added Duane Bower, lead Pastor of Epic Community Church.
Meanwhile, leaders at First Congregational Church had just finished putting up lights on their newly renovated steeple and bell around lunch Monday, a mere two hours before the tornado hit. “I heard the bell ring Sunday morning and every time I heard that bell ring it just chokes me up. I’m sure we’ll save the bell, we may mount it on the ground but we will ring that bell, it’s part of who we are,” described an emotional Tom Huggler, Chairman of the Board of Trustees with the church. Huggler said the church has been around since 1843 and moved to its current Bridge Street location in 1877 and was on the National Register of Historic places. A sad ending to such a historical building, but as Huggler and others said Tuesday, a church is people not a building and amazingly there were no serious injuries in Monday’s tornado.