Port Deposit church vacated due to damaged roof
— New Life Faith Center’s sanctuary is not fit for occupancy due to a collapsing roof, according to church leadership.
The Rev. Larry Johnson, senior pastor of the church on Jacob Tome Highway since 2001, pointed to cracks running from floor to ceiling, and areas where the ceiling is bowing down.
New cracks and splits appear daily, said Shawn Johnson, Larry’s son and associate pastor of the 33-yearold non-denominational church with 100 members.
“About six months ago, we started seeing the cracks in the walls,” Shawn said.
A structural engineer was hired to investigate and found that trusses were bowing and breaking with nails proving to be the only thing holding the supports in place. Without the proper bracing, all the weight was shifting to one location.
In the letter from David Mincin, principal with the engineering firm Mincin Patel Milano, of Baltimore, the church learned just how bad off
the roof had become.
“Within the original portion of the building ... we observed that basically each existing scissor truss was damaged,” the letter said. “This condition represents partial structural failure and adversely affects the structural integrity of the building.”
In another section of the building, Mincin’s letter carries a measure of disbelief.
“The framing at ‘Area C appears to defy rational analysis. We cannot definitively determine why it is still functioning as it obviously has since it was constructed,’” he said in the letter dated March 2, adding that the components “appear to just lean against each other at the intersection with no positive attachment.”
Pictures taken during the inspection show gaps of 2 inches or more where nails have come loose, wood has snapped, and brackets used to join pieces of wood together have failed.
“He said ‘It’s your prayers that is the only thing keeping it up,’” Larry recalled of the conversation he had after the engineer walked through the ceiling for his inspection. “We got a letter March 2 saying the building was no longer safe for occupancy.”
Pleasant View Baptist Church offered the use of its former school building, which is where the congregation now meets.
“The congregation has adapted well,” Shawn said, adding the worship times are consistent with their home schedule with Sunday School at 10 a.m. and worship at 11 a.m. Vacation Bible School is still being discussed.
Also being discussed is how to pay for the extensive repairs, estimated at more than $275,000.
“We are in the position that we could finance it, but we can only get a loan for 80 percent,” Larry said. “We need to raise $50,000. We can’t get the repairs started until we have that money.”
Along with various fundraising ideas for the near future, a GoFundMe page has been set up. The page was established to raise the entire amount, even though the smaller amount is the initial target.
It’s going to be a big job, Shawn said. S.E. Smoker Incorporated in Strasburg, Pa., won the bid to re- move the roof and redistribute the weight to avoid a collapse.
“They’ll put in new trusses, insulation, drywall, HVAC and a new roof with 40-year shingles,” Shawn said.
“It’s replace, not repair,” Larry added, noting the project is expected to take six to eight weeks.
Because of the age of the building, the Johnsons have been told they have no legal recourse with the original builder. Insurance adjusters have told them the same thing, advising against filing any claim.
“They told us if we filed a claim, they’d drop us,” Larry said, explaining that’s why the church is shouldering the entire cost.
Larry said the congregation has been informed every step of the way and has pledged to help financially.
“But we’re also reaching out to our community for help,” he said.
New Life Faith Center has a presence in the area, helping with rent and food for example, he said.
“We’re in the community. We’re for the community,” Shawn added. “God is still teaching us. If we remain faithful, he always provides.”