But members are now grappling with historic flooding of the sanctuary from last month's Hurricane Florence. Many are seniors who have worshipped at the church for decades or all of their lives.
"Seeing it damaged, it brought, really, tears," says Dr.
"We have quite a few senior members. It took a toll on them. They have a lot of memories here."
Restoration work on the church could take from a year to a year-and-a-half, Darden says.
The church still has use of its education wing. The Sunday after the storm, church members held morning service at a
Darden says he sees God's hand at work in how the partnership between the sister churches has worked out. Hood members meet in a newer sanctuary, and the Evans members meet in the older sanctuary. No parking or other issues have arisen, says Darden.
Evans' members will celebrate Founders Day next
"We have made a beautiful transition," Darden says. "Everything lined up. We don't conflict."
Worst since 1945
Florence's heavy rainwater, which fell for days, penetrated Evans' sanctuary, causing the damage, says Darden. In addition to the sanctuary, the water heavily damaged the church's outreach building, a wood structure just south of the building, near
Hurricane Matthew in 2016 caused some issues for the church, but nothing like Florence.
Darden and other church leaders walked through the sanctuary on the Tuesday after Florence, and again the following day.
He says the second walk-through revealed the full scope of the damage.
"We had a lot of shingles that were all on the ground, just everywhere," he said.
The water "came from the top and just gushed down."
There was mold and a gross smell. The plaster on the walls had puckered. Total losses include the women's and men's restrooms, choir and ministerial robes and items from the communion table.
This past Thursday, restoration workers had a huge tube plugged into a back entrance trying to air the church out. Church trustees who walked over to consult with the workers had to mask up each time.
Inside the sanctuary, Darden said, "It looks like a ghost town."
"There was more water than this time," he says.
Jones' family owned a house up on
As for Florence: "The only thing I can say, it was an act of God."
He says he has personally not been overly emotional about what happened and believes the trustees -- who are responsible for the building's upkeep -- are "doing a find job with the work that has to be done."
Some members he said were worried about the money that will be needed to restore the church.
"A lot of members have been praying to that effect," he says.
Darden says the church is trying to get most of the restoration work paid for by insurance, with some grants from the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office, which works with the property owner and the
Historic property officials are working with the contractors on the restoration to make sure the repairs comply with historic standards.
But to members, the richness of church history outweighs any burdens.
"We need to retain and restore all of the history we can for our youth," Billie says. "They need to have a working knowledge of where they are on Sunday morning, other than just being in Sunday service."
The Evans church story through the years is carefully preserved in an upstairs archive in the education wing, where displays include pictures, videotapes, collected papers and encased glass hangings of past members' military uniforms and church clothes. There is even a mannequin outfitted with a dapper suit and pipe -- a tribute to Brother
Darden says the church has around 330 members on the rolls and between 100 to 110 who attend regularly on Sunday. He transferred to Evans from a congregation in
He praised Evans' members' resilience and said the congregation will endure, and thrive.
While Florence-related damaged disrupted its ministry of feeding more than 100 people on Wednesday mornings, members are making plans to assist another church in a similar outreach.
He says that when Florence happened, the church had already been involved in a different kind of restoration -- a spiritual one.
Darden says: "We're restoring the church in terms of its spiritually, its focus on really getting the church back on target of the Biblical mandate of making disciples."
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