Beach Baptist Church holds first service since demolition

Author: Amy Galo Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

A kid splashing around in a puddle under a tent in the pouring rain is not exactly what you picture when you think of a church service. But this tent now houses Beach Baptist Church.

On Sunday, Beach Baptist held their first service, of many, back on the island, welcoming everyone to some great food, a beautiful service, and quality time with neighbors.

“It’s bittersweet, coming back here, and they just knocked the church down last week,” said Ben Clarke, Beach Baptist member.

Hurricane Ian ruined the sanctuary, leading to its demolition, and though the church’s steeple may no longer stand high in the sky, the sense of community, and spirits, does.

“When the church was going down last week, I was like, bawling,” said Erika Zcak, Beach Baptist member. “I was on the other side of the road, and then I saw the tent rising up. So it was kind of like a shift for me to say that there is life there doesn’t matter what the building is, is the people that are in there in this tent. This is going to be our next home for a while.”

Solidarity has always been a thing, despite adversity, at Beach Baptist.

“It’s always nice to see the same faces of what was before, and that’s a nice feeling,” Clarke said.

And pastor Shawn Critser hopes it can do the same for other congregations.

“We’re hoping it’s not just our church,” Critser said. “We want, we want every church on the island to know that they can use this facility.”

A facility which also doubles as a food pantry for Fort Myers Beach, and a place to get a warm meal.

“It’s not just, not just gonna be a church service, and yeah, this part is or that’s storage and things like that. but you know, this part is going to be for the church to do the thing, or the for people to have meetings, whatever the community needs. This is just going to be part of those resources,” Critser said.

Critser refers to the church as a true meeting place.

Beach Baptist does have plans to rebuild. If approved by the town, Beach Baptist would get a new building to replace the hurricane-damaged one.

The hope is for a developer to do the work for free, in exchange for a piece of church property, which the builder would then use for an eight story condo.

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