It was Sunday school as usual. At least, this is the way it's been for almost the past two years. Tyler's D.C. Brown Heritage Building is where members of New Zion Baptist Church have been worshipping since the roof of their church collapsed two summers ago.
But today, it was time to go home.
Law enforcement led a motorcade of vehicles for a nearly 20-mile journey to church in Winona this morning. A short trip, compared to the 22 months some of the faithful spent rebuilding their house of worship, all the while losing some members to death, but never losing the passion.
"I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus," they sang outside the doors of their newly rebuilt church.
"We stayed together as a church," Will Thomas, a trustee, said. "We've stuck together as a church family."
Some see the setback as a message from their maker.
"He had to let us know that he was God. And He is in charge," Simon Moore, Jr., a church deacon, said.
"Thank you, Father, for bringing us back home! Yeah!" they yelled and echoed each other.
What took them away from their home church now brings them back in unity. After a brief ribbon cutting, the congregation marched into church in single file, their singing voices ringing throughout the halls.
"So we learned on this journey that it wasn't the church that kept us together. It was the church that dwells on the inside," Carmella Edwards, youth ministry leader, said.
And now, they can renew that spirit.
"Everything is just going to be new," Rev. S.L. Curry, Jr., pastor, said. "I think the name will bear it out. We're going to be New Zion."
To prevent another roof collapse, New Zion Baptist Church says it has replaced the roof's wooden support beams with steel trusses.