Tent revival at Connected Church
Appeal Staff Writer
Pastor JJ Tuttle opened Sunday’s 10 a.m. service pacing before a crowd of 200, not from nervousness – but from need of warmth.
Under a white tent and before 20 rows of folding chairs filled with expectant worshippers, Tuttle motioned away a microphone and instead, rose his voice above the dulcet sound of coffee being poured, sugar wrappers shaken and cautious whispers of what would become of the church that burned down just a week ago.
The Connected Church of the Nazarene last Sunday was gutted by fire. The four-year-old church, which calls a warehouse at 900 Mallory Way home, was ravaged by a blaze allegedly set in multiple spots and suspected to be arson.
Tuttle cleared his throat and paused purposefully for a moment at the cross propped near the makeshift stage.
He looked down for a moment and raised his eyes toward the tent’s aluminum beam ceiling.
“Strange to me that a wooden cross doesn’t burn in a fire,” he said to whistles and applause.
Circumspect, Tuttle turned his gaze toward the congregation:
“We know some of you aren’t taking this well,” he said. “It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to be angry, it’s OK to be mad… It’s OK to feel all those things – but there are people praying for you.”
Then, a smile.
“And so you know, we don’t have as many props today – you notice there are no lit candles.”
And, for the first time in a week, the congregation erupted in a chorus of laughter – and the service commenced.
“I’ve been saying it all week, people ask me ‘how’s the church?’,” said Steve Pollard, who helped start the church with a bible study group in 2003.
“I tell them ‘the church is fine’ – this is the church. The people are the church – not the building.”
Pollard’s wife, Doris, standing near the back of the tent during Sunday’s morning worship, greeted parishioners and gave out hugs in between hymns and testimonials, .
“This is our family,” she said. “We don’t judge. We have all kinds who worship here. This is why we come here every Sunday.
“And we’ll continue to come.”
Indeed, a quick survey of the crowd revealed young and old, families and singles, the well-heeled and the forlorn – all gathered beneath the same tent closely resembling a Southern Revival – in 20-degree weather.
“We were coming here (last) Sunday for youth group,” said Kristen McKelvey, 18. “And we were stopped by the police and fire – we couldn’t get in. We didn’t know what was going on.
“But we’re back today. And we’re still doing what we do over the holidays.”
Ruben Inzuaza, 18, spoke of the church’s Christmas-themed activities including an “Angel Tree” giving members an opportunity to donate gifts as “angels” to needy Carson families, a family Christmas show at 7 p.m. on Friday and, of course “remembering the true reason behind Christmas,” he said.
“This is the season to be thankful, for giving,” he said. “We’re here and we’re glad.”
Other businesses and organizations the church rents space to were damaged by smoke. It could be a month before utilities are connected move-in is possible.
• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.