CULLMAN – The Tornado Memorial Patio at Christ Lutheran Church is a tribute to the Cullman community’s strength following the devastating storms on April 27, 2011. It is open to the public for prayer and reflection.
The idea of the patio originated in Pastor Sandy Niiler’s mind. She said that her church family helped build it and added, “People helped me to make it come true.” She said that Jason Kreps took the time last year to refurbish a cross and benches. In addition, Mary Strandlund and Dale Moody decorated it and made it look appealing, welcoming and pleasing to the eye. Pastor Sandy said that everyone in the congregation had the opportunity to submit a passage in scripture that meant a lot to them and that also applied to the memorial patio. The congregation voted and the winning verse is Psalm 46:1, which says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Bishop H. Julian Gordy of the ELCA-Southeastern Synod visited Christ Lutheran Church on Sunday, November 2 to bless the patio. Pastor Sandy said, “Our bishop was coming to worship with us on All Saints Sunday, so I asked him if he would bless it for us after service. It was a great honor to have him there and he was thrilled to be a part of it.” She said they got to share with the bishop why the patio was important to them. “He was away when we had our dedication, so this was a great way he could be a part,” she said.
Pastor Sandy has wanted a spot like this for a while. “I’ve always thought that our country needed places where people can stop and have prayer,” she said. After the tornados destroyed their church building, Christ Lutheran met at the monastery for services. She noticed that the sisters at the monastery had different places where people could drive up and walk the grounds or sit and pray. “I thought that it would be nice to have something in the heart of the city to honor God and how He took care of us through the hardships.”
She explained that it is not necessarily a historic marker, but instead it is a Christian marker. “It helps to have public places to focus our thoughts in a Godly way. Symbols like this remind us to get our minds thinking right. I think it’s a real small way as Christian people that we can witness are faith in God’s care; a small way of witnessing what we went through.”
If you would like to visit the patio, the address of Christ Lutheran Church is 422 2nd Avenue SE Cullman, AL 35055.