Congregation loses building, but gains perspective in fire
The emotional 30-minute service was marked by words of resilience in the face of loss, with church elders and many others speaking of the need to stay faithful and united, urging about 150 people in attendance to put the loss of the building in perspective.
“We pray that we can all band together, we can all stand tall, we can all love one another and get through this situation,” church elder John Ford said in the opening prayer. “The building that has been destroyed is just a building, but the church is us here tonight.”
For many of the people who gathered at the community center, it had been a long day. At about 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, fire and smoke engulfed the interior of the brick church that had been built in 1998. All the volunteer fire departments in Warren County responded to the blaze, which originated near the back of the building in an area between the first floor and the false ceiling over the basement.
Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the day, and several church members came to the aid of the volunteers, bringing food and drinks and taking whatever furniture, books, pictures and other items could be salvaged from the building.
Several members on site said they were glad that the bell in the church steeple was saved.
A tent was set up in the church parking lot to offer shade and food to weary firefighters. The South Central Kentucky chapter of the American Red Cross arrived with cases of bottled water and baskets of peaches.
By late Wednesday afternoon, a bulldozer had reduced the sanctuary to smoldering rubble – the lobby area was the only part of the building still standing.
Jim Carroll, a spokesman with the state fire marshal’s office, said this morning that an investigation has not determined its cause thus far.
“I haven’t even had time to cry today,” said church minister W. Tom Hall during Wednesday night’s service.
Hall said the fire ravaged his office and he lost all his Bibles, but he also told the congregation that it was important for the church members to come together and help out one another in this time.
“Just the night before I had talked with a couple that wanted to get married in that building, but now that’s going to have to happen someplace else,” Hall said. “But we will rebuild, and it will be better than what we had.”
An expansion had been planned so the church could keep up with its increasing membership, with construction set to begin in less than two weeks on an education wing. Church elder Richard Eubanks said the fire has changed those plans.
Now, the $900,000 that had been raised to pay for that construction will, along with an insurance payout of $628,000, go toward building a new church on the same site.
“We’re faced with several questions … one of them is, ‘if you had an empty spot there, what kind of building would you build?’ ” Eubanks said.
Another question answered by Eubanks is where the church would hold its services for the time being. The congregation plans to meet Sundays and Wednesdays at Richardsville Elementary School until a new building is ready.
“We’re going to pull together just like we always have,” Eubanks said. “The Bible says don’t worry about tomorrow … we’re going to tackle this together.”
The congregation sang “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah,” “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” and “Kneel at the Cross,” using hymnals the church had previously given to a church in Butler County.
“It’s hard for everybody to speak right now,” church member Tammy Miller said after the service.
Miller spent much of Wednesday outside the destroyed church, having brought water and food for the firefighters on site.
“I just made sure I brought plenty of drinks and snacks,” Miller said. “Whatever needed to be done, we just jumped in.”
She stopped to pick up her 6-year-old son, Mason, from the school bus. Miller said Mason took the loss especially hard, crying when he came off the bus.
The Millers have been members of Mount Pleasant for about a year.
“I have a lot of good memories,” Miller said. “You can’t take away the memories.”
(story used with permission)