Cuckoo church members seek to rebuild after Virginia earthquake

CUCKOO, Va. (AP) - Members of the tiny congregation of a church rocked by a Virginia-centered earthquake are launching a fund-drive to restore their sanctuary.

The 5.8-magnitude quake Aug. 23 rocked the Gilboa Christian Church in Cuckoo, which is located near the epicenter of the quake in Mineral. The church dates to 1857 and has between 50 and 75 members.

"It's just heartbreaking," Peggy Albright, who has attended services at the church for nearly 80 years, told The Daily Progress of Charlottesville.

Church members agreed to raise an estimated $350,000 to restore the church, which suffered structural damage. The congregation was to meet at a nearby community center Sunday to worship.

Church leaders are asking for donations from the community and beyond to help rebuild.

"We know the congregation is the church, not the building," said John Turner, pastor of this flock for more than 25 years. "The mission of the church will continue as we work to rebuild."

The earthquake cracked the sanctuary's four walls, making it unsafe to use. Volunteers over the Labor Day weekend planned to salvage what they could from the building, then start working on ways to shore up the sides until they can start to rebuild.

"We're told that in terms of safety, the entire walls of the original church will have to be torn down and rebuilt," Turner said. "The hope is to rebuild the church as close to the way it looked before the earthquake."

Eugenia Bumpass, 96, who has attended the church for more than 30 years, still drives herself to church services or carpools with other ladies from the church.

"This is a family church," Bumpass said. "There have been a lot of families who have given to this church and who have been attending all of their lives."

It's expected to take up to a year to rebuild the sanctuary.