Oldest church in Bremen beyond repair after tornado

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Published: Dec. 19, 2021 at 5:44 PM CST
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BREMEN, Ky. (WFIE) - Among many things, several church buildings were destroyed in the deadly tornados.

Bethlehem Church in Bremen was the oldest church in town, and while it’s still standing, Pastor TJ Miliam says it’s most likely beyond repair.

Despite the tragedy, Pastor TJ Milam leads Bethlehem Missionary Baptist church together to lift each other up, but not at their usual meeting place, at the Fellowship Hall of Cedar Grove Baptist Church.

They usually meet at the oldest church building in Bremen, which is now a shell of what it once was before the storm.

“I was saved in this church, I proposed in this church, married in this church, ordained in this church building, and then I finally got to pastor it,” said Milam. “So yeah, a lot of strong connection to this.”

The building is still standing, but has entirely shifted, the whole baptistry exposed. Milam says the basement kept dozens safe that night. He says he had a hard time reaching his wife and kids when the winds started picking up.

“You’re just at that point where you’re about to come unglued, because you can’t get to them, and you can’t talk with them,” said Milam. “But it was there that I think the spirit of God spoke to my heart and said ‘I give, I take away, praise me’ and I did. That’s what sustained us all the way through.”

As special as the church is to him, Milam says the building isn’t what matters.

“Biblically, this building isn’t the church, it’s the people,” said Milam. “I think in a new way, we’re actually relearning that biblical truth and seeing the great reality of us as a church family is much more important than where we’re at, even out of here.”

As Milam holds the people of his congregation, and prays with them, he encourages them to do the same with one another.

“We’ve never had an opportunity like this, to be the hands and feet of Christ, and show His love to our community like right now when it’s on the ground,” said Milam. “My encouragement to them was, this is our time. This is what He wants us to do.”

So that’s what the people of Bethlehem church will focus on for now, no matter what building they meet in.

“Every church in Bremen, and even some in Central city have offered us their facilities,” said Milam. “We met in another church for Wednesday night service, we met there Sunday, we may go through a few of these, but all of these people say the same thing. ‘Be at home here. Make this your home’.”

Milam says they’ll be alternating meeting houses until further notice. Although some of his congregation lost their homes, he says he’s thankful none of them lost their lives.

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