Sept. 17 was a typical Sunday morning at most Virginia Baptist churches. But for the congregation of Parham Road Baptist in Richmond, it was the first time in over two years that they had gathered for worship at their church facility.
The words of Psalm 126:3, “The Lord hath done great things for us, and we are filled with joy,” were printed on brochures in the pews. The members of Parham Road Church knew that God indeed did great things as they worked and prayed and waited for this day. The time for celebration had come and it was filled with joy.
Decay in wood supports caused the roof of the church's sanctuary to collapse on June 10, 2004. The steeple, walls and bell tower were spared, as were the stained glass windows. But the weeks of heavy rain which followed ruined the interior. Everything had to be gutted and replaced.
The Virginia Baptist Resource Center became home for the 300-member congregation for the next two-plus years. Sunday worship and Wednesday activities were held there. The church office was relocated to a nearby office building and the ministry of the church continued.
Members and visitors on Sept. 17 were quick to notice that the renovated sanctuary was not a replica of the old one. The new pews were positioned on an angle allowing for the placement of wheelchairs, the color scheme was changed, a new organ was in place and an improved sound system had been installed.
The six stained-glass windows and a mural of the Jordon River over the baptismal pool did survive the roof collapse.
“God had a hand in sparing the stained glass windows,” recounted one Parham Road member. When the roof fell a large amount of debris landed on the organ, which caught the wall with the stained-glass windows. Small cracks in the glass remain today as during the rebuilding process it was decided not to completely fix them. The cracks will serve as a reminder for future generations of what had been.
It will take a few more weeks before the congregation will be able to use its fellowship hall, kitchen and classrooms in the church's basement. There are still boxes to unpack and furniture to be put in order. But that will all be taken care of by November, when Parham Road Church will celebrate homecoming. Former members and friends are invited. It will truly be a “home-coming” celebration.