ARLINGTON — Just before dawn, outside on a grassy lawn, parishioners — with candles and chairs at their side — prepared for the Easter Sunday services at St. Barnabas United Methodist Church in Arlington.
"This is about four times the normal crowd we would have for a normal sunrise service," said Senior Pastor Will Cotton.
The annual tradition brought out the faithful along with the weary, desperate to find meaning after Tuesday's devastating tornado.
"We needed to make a statement right in the middle of this community," Cotton said. "We wanted to say there is hope and new beginnings here."
A few feet away from the Easter celebration, a tornado-battered Church lay in ruins. The view pains Kay Jackson; he's been a member of St. Barnabas for 15 years.
"Sure, it's sad to see our church this way", she said, "but we are excited about the opportunities that God has in store for us."
Hours after the sunrise sermon, worshipers celebrated Easter inside the auditorium at Martin High School; not the most ideal place to hold a church service, but it was a place to meet for fellowship and to let the the kids hunt for eggs.
Members have been told it will take six to seven months for St. Barnabas United Methodist Church to rebuild, and a lot is expected to change.
The congregation, and even the community is experiencing a metamorphosis. Their faith has been strengthened, in spite of the damage surrounding them.
"You know, it's usually like events like this that start a whole new chapter in a church's life," Pastor Cotton said. "So we know that's what's happening, and that's an exciting thing."
For the next two months, St. Barnabas' congregation will meet at the local 7th Day Adventist church while its facility is being repaired.