Shaken from church, members celebrate Easter in synagogue

Published: Apr. 9, 2012 at 3:54 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 9, 2012 at 12:11 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - On Easter Sunday, the great hall of Grace Episcopal Church was quiet. The choir wasn't singing, the Rector wasn't preaching and Sunday school wasn't ending because it hadn't begun in the 166-year-old building in almost a year.

Last August, an earthquake centered in Virginia shook the congregation out of their home at Grace Episcopal in downtown Charleston.

Instead of pews, there's scaffolding. Red 'danger, do not enter' tape covers the hall instead Easter decorations.

"It just hurts," said Virginia Donehue, Sunday morning. "It would be like your house caught fire and you had to live somewhere else until you get it fixed up. We just want to go home."

Donehue says the 5.8 magnitude earthquake weakened the limestone mortar holding bricks in the walls together. The re-construction of the Church goes back to the years after the great earthquake of 1886.

That earthquake did much more damage than the most recent shake but because of safety reasons, church members were forced to worship elsewhere until renovations to support the structure are complete.

That's why on Easter Sunday 2012, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE) Synagogue two blocks away was filled with grace.

"It has been really special to be at the Synagogue this morning," said Donehue.

Although the religions have there differences, Rector Michael Wright says he gladly accepted the Synagogue's invitation to worship not only this past Christmas but on Easter Sunday.

"We get a real sense of community on this Easter day," said Wright. "We're not a community divided. We're a community united."

But Wright said even though the last seven months of traveling to neighboring Sunday worship spaces has been a great experience to meet others and learn about different religions, going back to Grace Episcopal can't come soon enough.

"We're going to have to work really hard now to make sure that we can come home to Grace," said Wright, who thinks members may be back in pews by late Summer.

To help with the cost of renovation, the Church started a campaign called 'Home to Grace.'

Members are trying to raise $5 million over the next three years to cover the repairs of the earthquake damage last August.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.