The storm came first and then the generosity followed. That generosity made the biggest impression on Rev. Mark O’Shields in his first months as pastor at Evangelical UMC in Clarksboro. High winds on June 23 in East Greenwich Township in Gloucester County took down hundreds of trees and power lines, leaving thousands in the community without power for days.
Those same winds also left Evangelical UMC without its steeple as it was blown off the roof. The winds also downed a large oak tree in the church parking lot. The people’s response to the damage has Evangelical on schedule to replace its steeple in late October. “People in the community have made donations to the church for the steeple,” O’Shields said. “One man, whom I had never seen before, made a generous donation that was enough to cover the cost of the deductible. The insurance will cover the rest of the cost.”
The estimated cost to replace the fallen steeple with a new one is about $20,000. The 10-foot tall structure will be mounted on the roof with a cross on its top. O’Shields didn’t underestimate the community’s ability to help each in the wake of damage. “After the storm, the neighbors came out and started moving trees,” he said. “That was a time for me to get to know people.”
No one was injured, which O’Shields acknowledged is more important than the steeple, which has become a community landmark. “God doesn’t call us to attach ourselves to things, but to people,” he said. “I know people love this building and want to take good care of it. They have been here for years and have childhood memories growing up in it.
“Even when I went to get new tires on my car, the mechanic asked me when the steeple is going to go up.” Many of those same people had seen the trees around the church grow from saplings to large shade providers. O’Shields said church members and friends helped clean up the fallen tree.
“Thank the Lord the tree didn’t fall on the church,” he said. “Some of the men in the church and their friends came out and cleaned up the tree. A couple of people in the church paid to have the stump ground up. We all are working together and that is what we call the church.”