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For one church in Seabrook, Texas — just north of Galveston, on the bay — the damage from Hurricane Ike is a blessing in disguise.

Tony McCollum, pastor of the 900-member Seabrook United Methodist Church, said the September 13 hurricane's damage will benefit the church, at least in one way. The church will use the insurance money to get a head start on a long-planned new sanctuary. McCollum hopes the insurance money will cover the $3 million first phase of the project. The church's current buildings — the highest of which was flooded with three feet of water — will all be torn down.

"We've been working on this move for 12 years," said McCollum. "Now we're going to be able to let go and say, you know what, at this point we have no option."

This Sunday, the congregation had an outdoor worship service at the site of the new building. McCollum is not sure what the congregation will do until the new building is built, but is considering a modular building, sharing space with another church, or meeting in storefront property.

But as McCollum and other church leaders begin cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Ike, they are concerned about the storm's less visible effects.

After hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005, McCollum said, Seabrook United Methodist lost about 20 families who were tired of frequently preparing for storms and moved. The pastor is now bracing for another wave of departures.

"We had a lot of folks who just got weary battling the hurricane," he said. "A consultant called it the Rita effect: we had a lot of members move away from the community because they just got tired of battling nature."

Another problem churches are preparing to face is less giving, as families use their money to rebuild their ...

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September 2008

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