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Church in Nichols works to recover after flooding

October 1, 2018

NICHOLS, S.C. — Craig Graham spent part of Saturday morning on his hands and knees behind the sanctuary in Nichols Baptist Church, taking up flooring that congregants had worked to place about 18 months ago after Hurricane Matthew.

Elsewhere in the church four dehumidifiers hummed, several fans ran and the voices of other volunteers rang out. On the church’s front steps was a pile of carpet that had, until Hurricane Florence, been on the floor in the sanctuary.

Services, for the foreseeable future, will be in Nichols United Methodist Church. Their basement flooded but their sanctuary stayed above water, Graham said.

“They’ve given us the sanctuary mornings. They meet at 9:30 a.m. so we can meet at 11 a.m. and worship service. That’s great; we have worship space right in town,” Graham said.

Graham and his crew — three adults and three children — were doing what they could while they waited for the Marion Baptist Association to arrive to spray for mold to stabilize the situation.

“By the time you get it up, wash it, clean it and dry it I don’t know if it’s worth it or not,” Graham said of trying to salvage the planks — at least the ones that came up without breaking. Both the whole and the broken were scattered in stacks around the room.

Saturday was the third work day for Graham, who oversees the church’s deacon board.

“It was about six inches in this area, maybe 6-8 inches,” Graham said of the sanctuary and the space that surrounds it. “In the fellowship it was about 36 inches. It was worse than this.”

“We had to start somewhere so we started here,” Graham said. It’ll take about six months to get it back to where the church can move back in for services, he said.

On the raised area of the sanctuary hymnals, Bibles, collection plates and flags sat high and dry, above the water.

“We were fortunate we had a little bit of advanced warning this time,” Graham said. “We came down and got a lot of this stuff up. In 2016 we had no advanced warning — we lost everything.”

“Pews have some damage but we think we can repair them this time. Last time they were beyond repair,” he said.

Nichols sits just north of the confluence of the Little Pee Dee River and the Lumber River which pass one to the east of town and the other to the west of town. In both instances the rivers combined to inundate the northern Marion County town.

“The original sanctuary is somewhere around the late 1800s,” Graham said. “It was basically the sanctuary and as the years passed they added on the sides and the front and eventually this was added on back here. In the ’60s they added on fellowship and additional classrooms.”

The church is a member of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and works with the North Carolina Baptist Convention, he said. Following Hurricane Matthew the church was helped by the Waccamaw and Carolina Baptist associations from Loris and Conway.

That help won’t be something they will be able to count on this time.

“They’re going to be helping their own. They have plenty to do in their own neighborhood,” Graham said.

The church turns out about 50 worshipers to a service, has about 100 members on the roll and congregants in their 50s are some of the youngest in the church.

“We’ll get it; it’ll just take a little bit longer,” he said.

“We’re going to focus this time on the sanctuary, get it cleaned up, dried out. Do whatever we need to do to get rid of the mold,” Graham said. “We’ll seal the fellowship part off until such time we can get to it.”

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