FLINT (WJRT) - (07/15/15) – A collapsed ceiling has been at the center of a legal battle between a Mid-Michigan church and an insurance company.
Because of it, Joy Tabernacle Church in Flint's Civic Park neighborhood has been without a sanctuary for the past three years.
"Traditionally, this is where God meets his people in earth. And so it's very important, it's always been important,” said Pastor Robert McCathern, with Joy Tabernacle Church.
McCathern moved his church into the historic Civic Park building seven years ago. Then in late 2012, disaster struck.
"And then one day we came, the alarm went off, me and Pastor came, and we walked into the sanctuary and saw that it collapsed. And it was just like, 'ugh,'” said Aaron Dunigan, who goes to Joy Tabernacle.
Since the ceiling collapsed, the congregation has been forced to come down to the basement and worship. While they've done their best to make it look and feel like a sanctuary, it's just not the same.
"Some people's allergies, some people are claustrophobic, some people just can't stand the acoustic of the sounds in the basement, so it has tremendously affected us financially, numerically, and it has affected us spiritually,” McCathern said.
Before the ceiling collapsed, the church had around 750 members. They've lost 200-300.
"We've really had to rely on faith and trust God,” McCathern said.
That trust in God has led to some light in this dark time for the church.
"We needed a space to work on projects with the church and one of the most available spaces really was the sanctuary,” said Matthew Soulia, with Forge Flint.
Forge Flint, which is a nonprofit that works with Joy Tabernacle to improve the neighborhood, started using the sanctuary as a workshop this summer. It's helped them be more efficient and organized as they do their work cleaning up blight in the area.
While that's OK for now, McCathern hopes soon the space will return to its original purpose.
"Hoping the end is in sight, and the church is very excited that we can get back in our place of worship,” McCathern said.
Joy Tabernacle's attorney is meeting with the insurance company in front of a judge in late August. McCathern hopes that will solve their ceiling problem once and for all.