CHERRY CORNER — It was on the evening of May 18 that Cherry Corner Baptist Baptist Church in Calloway County had its most identifying characteristic literally knocked from its perch.
The steeple that had stood at the top of the current building since it was constructed in 1960 was ripped from the roof and left dangling after a vicious thunderstorm swept though the area. Quickly, news spread through the church members and, within minutes, the parking lot of the church, at the heart of this unincorporated community about four miles southeast of Murray, was filled with members and onlookers alike to get a glimpse of what had happened.
Fast forward to Monday, and the same parking lot was again filled with activity, but it was for a different reason. This time, it was to see a new, taller steeple than the previous model, take its place at the top of this community’s center.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said church member Mark Winchester, fighting back tears as he watched Jason Stahler of Murray’s Stahler Welding Inc. man the controls of a large crane to hoist the new 25-foot point into air and gently onto the roof.
“This is the church my parents attended when I was born and it was their Sunday school class that actually collected the money that was put to the first steeple that was on top of this building (established in 1960). So I was here for about five years as a child, then we moved to another side of the county and I went to church in another place. Then, I came back here about six years ago and I wound up becoming chairman of the building and grounds committee.
“When the storm hit and wiped the old steeple out, well that had been kind of a special connection to me with my parents being involved in putting the first steeple up.”
Interviewed the day after the storm, The Rev. Shawn Haynes, Cherry Corner’s pastor, said the situation could have been worse. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, there was not a large group of people gathered on the parking lot as usual before Sunday evening activities at the church, meaning no people or vehicles were struck when the wooden support of the steeple came smashing to the ground below.
However, recalling that night on Monday, Winchester said this easily could have been a disaster, if not for what became a fortunate development with the church’s electrical system.
“It broke a hole in the roof and one of our classrooms is located right beneath where that happened and we had rain coming in. Well, where that hole was is right over our electrical panels in the area of that classroom,” he said of how this easily could have become a fire inside the building. “The fortunate thing for us is that when the storm came in, the power got knocked out, plus nobody around here had a generator that was putting any feedback out, so we didn’t have any current at all.”
Damage inside the building was still extensive. The heavy rains that fell behind the high winds that removed the steeple resulted in water damage to several areas near the front entrance of the sanctuary, above which the steeple had been placed. Winchester said that damage to the classroom, the foyer leading to the sanctuary and flooring amounted to about $23,000.
Insurance took care of most of the repairs.
“But insurance doesn’t cover 100% replacement,” he said of how the church’s general fund paid for the repairs that did not include the roof and the steeple. “And with COVID going on (limiting the number of people coming on Sundays), we’re down a few people. Funds are kind of tight.”
Darrin McCuiston knows this. That is why, as the owner of a general construction firm, as well as a resident of Cherry Corner, he helped supply the equipment that removed the dangling steeple from the roof that night without asking for anything in return.
He was back Monday, and he was doing this even though he is not a member of that church.
“But neighbors need help regardless when bad things happen,” McCuiston said. “It means a whole lot to everybody here.
“How long had the old one stood for? 60 years? That says something.”