Celebration of recovery this Easter for Nashville church rebuilt after EF-3 tornado

St. John's Lutheran Church was destroyed by an EF-3 tornado three years ago. They celebrate with their first in-person mass since the heartbreaking destruction on Sunday.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For one Tennessee church, Sunday means more than just celebrating Easter. 

St. John's Lutheran Church in Nashville was destroyed by an EF-3 tornado on March 3, 2020. Now, they celebrate with their first in-person mass since the heartbreaking destruction. 

It has taken three years of working through all the different construction delays, permitting processes, fundraising and working with insurance to get to the point where they are today.

"Just because we didn't have a building didn't mean we weren't still the body of Christ and reaching out to help those in need in our community," St. John’s Lutheran Pastor Rick Roberts said. "That's what really kept us together over the last three years, was being able to reach out and help those in need in spite of our need."

The church officially re-opened after it was completely rebuilt at on Oct 30, 2022, after 973 days of being closed.


For Roberts, the church is about community as they continue their outreach to keep his family together.

"There are probably several churches since our devastation, through tornadoes and hurricanes and natural disasters, hopefully through our experiences and our resurrection gives them hope that there is resurrection and hope for them too," he said.

The worst tornadoes in Tennessee since 2011

Several supercell thunderstorms spawned numerous tornadoes across southeast Missouri, southern Kentucky, Tennessee and central Alabama late in the day on March 2 into the early morning hours on March 3, according to the National Weather Service. 

One of those supercells formed near the Mississippi River in West Tennessee. It then tracked east across the entire length of the state spawning numerous tornadoes and dropping large hail up to the size of baseballs in some areas. 

The worst of these tornadoes touched down across Middle Tennessee during the early morning hours of March 3, resulting in widespread damage, hundreds of injuries and 25 fatalities. 

The NWS determined 10 tornadoes touched down across the state of Tennessee, with 7 of these tornadoes affecting Middle Tennessee. All of these tornadoes were moving at extremely fast speeds up to 65 mph, according to the NWS.

The two strongest and most damaging tornadoes were an EF-3 tornado that tracked over 60 miles across the Nashville metro area eastward to Smith County, the NWS reports. An even stronger EF-4 tornado caused severe damage in central Putnam County between Baxter and Cookeville, Tennessee. 

Officials said the tornadoes were the worst seen in Tennessee since April 27, 2011, when a group of devastating tornadoes ripped across East Tennessee, as well as the Super Tuesday tornadoes on Feb. 5-6, 2008.