Elverson Hopewell Christian Fellowship Church lobby, cafe roof collapses due to snow & ice

Snow and Ice, archive Staff Photo by Vinny Tennis.

Elverson’s Hopewell Christian Fellowship Church lobby and café were crushed when a roof collapsed due to snow and ice on Valentine’s Day.

Friday morning, Feb. 14, a ringing phone alerted Christine McNamara, church administrator that Hopewell Christian Fellowship Church’s roof over the entire lobby area and café had fallen into the church.

The day before, a big storm had dumped 18 inches of snow, sleet and ice into the Elverson area, closing down roads and schools.

McNamara sprang into action with her husband Dave, immediately driving to the church located at 2286 Hopewell Rd., Elverson. Her eyes confirmed what the neighbor had said on the phone. A gaping hole was seen from the street exposing what was previously the lobby and café area of the church.

The café area is used to prepare and serve breakfast before and after church services. It is totally in ruins.

“The mangled mess of 3,450 square feet of the roof was now laying inside the church with twisted roof trusses and rubble all covered with inches of snow and ice,” McNamara said.

They were greeted by concerned neighbors. Quickly, the electric and heating and air conditioning unit were turned off to protect the building from fire. Berks Fire and Water were called to the site. The damage is so extensive that Burkey Construction Company is overseeing the demolition and reconstruction.

“Insurance will cover this loss,” said McNamara.

There were no previous leaks in the building. The cumulative build up from two previous storms and freezing temperatures had dumped 20 plus inches of ice and snow proving to be more than this 27-year-old addition could bear. There were no eyewitnesses. The time was probably in the early hours of Feb. 14.

Days later they were still unable to put tarps over the area due to forecasts for more upcoming storms. Temporary framed walls were erected to contain the damages and it was roped off with yellow safety tape. Cranes will be brought in to remove the rubble along with the ice and snow from inside the building.

Church volunteers cleaned the remaining roof of all snow and ice. The rest of the structure is being evaluated for safety. Adjoining walls are a concern. The sanctuary appears not to be damaged and the lower level offices are intact. The church is not usable for services, weddings and funerals. Pastor Duane Britton is optimistic that by Easter, April 20, the demolition and rebuilding will be completed.

Interim Pastor Duane Britton is no stranger to acts of nature playing havoc and destruction with churches. The church he pastored in the ‘80s was meeting in Reading’s YMCA building when an arsonist set the building on fire, one resident death resulted from the fire. Their church family was spared since they were not in the building at the time.

He had also previously experienced a hurricane racing through Lancaster County while he was preaching to 500 parishioners. The Worship Service was pelted by the storm that sent the steeple flying down the road.

This accounts for his comforting words, “This is just a bump in the road for Hopewell” and “we will get through this and be better for it.”

“In the interim they will work with local churches for funerals and weddings while Sunday Family Services will be held at Twin Valley Middle School, at 10 a.m.,” said McNamara.

Even though some other churches had to close their doors because of weather, the congregation gathered the following Sunday at the Twin Valley Middle School. The population of 500 families were all sent emails to notify them of the dramatic event.

“The good news, it is only a building; nobody was hurt, people could have been injured or crushed,” McNamara said.

Pastor Britton posted a message, Feb. 15, to the website http:// www.hopewellchurch.org:

To our Church Family,

Greetings to all! We have appreciated all the support this church family has shown our staff through this challenging time with your calls, texts and inquiries on how to help wherever needed. We appreciate your prayers during this time and we will be providing updates as we move along in this process.

For updates please go to the church website www.hopewellchurch.org or call 610-286-6308.

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