WASHINGTON — St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ellicott City has been located on the hillside at the corner of Main Street and Ellicott Mill for more than 150 years, but historic flooding has threatened the bluff the church calls home.
St. Luke AME Church is just one of the many buildings impacted by the flooding Saturday. The town took on more than 6 inches of water in a nearly two-hour period, leading to two deaths, sweeping away hundreds of cars and damaging about 30 buildings.
On Monday, Rev. Joan A. King said the hill on which the church is built is in peril after flooding washed part of it away. The historic building now stands just feet from the cliff that was formed when the hill was destroyed.
“A couple of my members came by [Sunday] and called me and said there’s nothing there — the platform [of the church], there’s nothing under there holding the platform. It’s just sitting there.”
King said she is hoping the church can be saved.
“I’m still almost in a state of shock,” she said. “I just can’t comprehend what’s going to happen next. What we’re going to do. I just don’t know.”
City and county leaders say it will take many months and thousands of dollars to complete repairs — some are adding prayers, as they look at the church they have been going to their whole lives.
Two church members, Cindy and Desiree Kelly, were incredulous when they saw their lifelong church.
“I”m just praying that it doesn’t come down,” said Cindy. “God’s gonna put a fence around it, he’s gonna save it.”
The women grew up in Ellicott City, but now live in nearby Columbia.
“I’m used to seeing some floods here in Ellicott City, but I’ve never seen it so devastated,” Cindy said.
King said the church is prone to rain damage, but said she always thought the church’s hilltop location offered protection.
“When they said flash flooding — and Ellicott City always has a tendency to flood down on the lower level — I had no idea it would be up this high.”
While King hasn’t been able to get inside the church, she said she is sure it has flooded.
“We want to get in there soon to salvage anything if possible,” she said.
Since the flooding, parishioners have tried to shore up the church, putting rocks where the hillside once was.
It is not yet clear how much damage the flooding has caused the church.
WTOP’s Jamie Forzato contributed to this report from Ellicott City.
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