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Harvey hits chapel

Harvey hits chapel
PASCALLE BIPPERT Hurricane Harvey peeled a section from the roof of the historic La Vernia United Methodist Church chapel Aug. 26, as the storm moved inland from the Texas Gulf Coast. A gofundme.com campaign is in the works to help with repair costs.

A GoFundMe drive is being set up to help cover the cost of repairs to the historic chapel at the La Vernia United Methodist Church, after winds from Hurricane Harvey tore back a section of the chapel’s roof at approximately 10 a.m. Saturday.

Youth Director Phillip Higginbotham noticed the damage while checking on the church property. Church members were alerted and arrived to protect the building’s contents. Antique furnishings were moved into a dry corner of the building and covered with a tarp. Hymnals and other small items were moved to safety in the main sanctuary building.

A little history

The chapel was constructed in 1887 as a replacement for the original 1881 chapel. The first chapel was destroyed on Aug. 20, 1886, by a tornado resulting from the Indianola hurricane. Although the current classification system was not in place at the time, the Indianola hurricane, like Harvey, was estimated to have been a Category 4 storm.

The 1887 chapel was constructed on a 1.5-acre lot at the corner of what is now Chihuahua Street and F.M. 775, just west of City Hall. At the time, there were 85 members and the pastor was J.F. Denton. La Vernia was part of a Methodist Circuit, so services were held every other Sunday. There were, however, Bible studies every Sunday and prayer services every Wednesday.

In the 1990s, the Vorpahl family donated land on Bluebonnet Road (F.M. 775) across from what is now La Vernia Junior High School. In 1996, the current main sanctuary was completed and the historic 1887 chapel was relocated to the new property from Chihuahua Street. The building was renovated, adding air conditioning; the round stained-glass window was added in memory of Dr. Elam Scull. At that time, the building received its historical designation from the state of Texas.

The chapel still contains the original pulpit, altar rail, and chairs. The 1910-era light fixtures were replaced recently, due to concerns over fire safety; they are in storage. The building is regularly used for Sunday School. Special services, such as Ash Wednesday and Blue Christmas, are held in the chapel, which also is available for weddings.

According to available records, this is the third time the roof of the chapel has been damaged. Just after the chapel was moved in 1996, a section on the southeast corner was replaced.

The current damage to the roof is estimated at $20,000, including required modernization of the roof deck. Insurance hadn’t provided an estimate of the interior damage as of press time Aug. 29.

Donations to help with the repairs can be mailed to La Vernia UMC, P.O. Box 155, La Vernia, TX 78121, or made electronically at laverniaumc.org.

A fundraiser also may be organized to help.

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