Sunday’s torrential rain flooded the dining room annex at Johnson City’s historic West Main Street Christian Church, one of the city’s oldest churches and the site of two weekend feeding programs for the homeless and needy.
Absent any additional downpours, Pastor Jeff Douds said the church’s Loaves and Fishes and Master’s Table programs that together feed about 150 people in need each week will go on without interruption.
Another hard rain and further damage to the dining room, however, could put the future of both programs in question, leading the church to request the community’s assistance with repairs.
“There was way too much water on the roof last night,” Douds said Monday as he peered through the holes above the dinning room where several water-damaged ceiling tiles fell in. “It backed up on the roof, ran out to the edges and seeped down the walls underneath to the ceiling.
“The original (1889) building is fine. That roof was replaced eight or 10 years ago. The problem is this (annex building) roof is flat and water is running in from a lot of different directions.”
Ross Carmack, a member of Crossroads Christian Church in Gray who along with volunteers from more than 20 area churches helps serve the free meals for the needy at West Main Street Christian, said stains on the wall of the dining room indicate about three inches of water collected in the floor as a result of Sunday’s deluge. Trash cans placed beneath the leaks were still catching water Monday.
Douds said the church has an estimate of between $10,000 and $11,000 to replace the annex roof but its tiny congregation includes less than 20 regularly attending members who cannot meet that cost on their own.
Additional leaks from a point where the roofs of a third building that houses the church kitchen and a fourth, smaller structure that connects the dining room annex to the original church building are also causing damage for which the church does not have an estimate on repairs.
“The kitchen is a different problem,” Douds said. “It could be anywhere from several hundreds dollars to patch to several thousand dollars to replace.”
A historical marker placed outside the church by the Tennessee Historical Commission states that West Main Street Christian Church was built in 1889 and was originally known as the “Colored Christian Church and Colored School.” According to the marker, it is “the oldest church building and the oldest school building still standing in Johnson City.”
Douds said an oral history passed down through many continuous generations of the original congregation holds that the church actually predates the building by about 20 years. As early as 1869, he said the church was one of three or four African-American congregations that shared a log building located on Roan Hill at the top of Buffalo Street.
The church has hosted the Saturday afternoon Loaves and Fishes program for 27 years and the Sunday evening Master’s Table program for about three years.
Carmack noted it is mostly indigent people who come to the church to eat and said it is because of its feeding programs that the church is able to steer people who are in need of additional assistance to other resources and services in the community.
For now, Douds said, the church hopes to patch the annex roof and continue its weekend feeding programs. He requested anyone who wishes to help to call him at 915-6010 for more information.
Donations to West Main Street Christian Church earmarked for the roof may be made by mail to 246 W. Main St., Johnson City, TN 37604.