Coney Island Congregation Holds Services At Funeral Home As They Rebuild Their Church
As a Coney Island church rebuilds after Hurricane Sandy, its congregation has found an unusual place to hold services. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
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Debris piles up daily outside the Coney Island Cathedral Church. Inside, the building is being gutted. Hurricane Sandy ruined everything.
"Just the force of the water had the doors broke down," said Waylyn Hobbs, pastor at the Coney Island Cathedral Church. "We had actual pews that were out in the street from the water."
The Mermaid Avenue building used to be a movie theater. You can now see the movie projector openings inside the building, since the walls had to be demolished from floor to ceiling.
"We had eight to nine feet of water from the lobby all the way to the sanctuary," Hobbs said. "Because it used to be a movie theater, our floor, like, slopes how the movie theaters were."
The large space helped accommodate the 2,300-member congregation. Now, worshippers have had to go elsewhere.
While the church is being rebuilt, services have been moved to a nearby funeral home.
Coney Island Memorial Chapel is providing temporary refuge for worshipers, but because it's a smaller space, the church has had to add extra services.
That's not the only issue.
"Unfortunately, we have some people who are nervous about having service in a funeral home, you know, superstitious, whatever you call it," Hobbs said. "So we're looking forward to getting back in our sanctuary."
While the sanctuary is out of service, the church building is still serving the community.
"We have a very limited space, but what we do is take donations," said Rory Batts, a member of the Coney Island Cathedral Church. "We've been distributing food, blankets, clothing, toiletries. Whatever we can get."
The church has relied on donations and volunteers. It's received no insurance money and estimates about $1 million in damage.
Pastor Hobbs says he hopes the push to bring FEMA aid to religious institutions will come through.
"That would be welcome news," he said. But we can't wait for it. We need help now so we can continue to service."
Pastor Hobbs said he hopes to be fully back in the building by April.