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Week After Devastating Fire, Orange County Church Vows to Rebuild

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CEDAR GROVE — Members of an Orange County congregation met Sunday for the first time since their church burned down. The worshipers plan to raise a new church from the ashes.

"The good stuff can be wonderful. And we are so blessed in so many ways, but the bad stuff can be wonderful, too," Pastor Julia Dees told her congregation.

Last week, the Cedar Grove United Methodist Church caught fire. Flames had torn through the roof and through the basement windows when firefighters arrived. Stone walls are all that remain.

"And this morning, you say, 'I'm going to church,' and you are, but it's not the same place. I think it's harder now than the night of the fire," says Paula Compton, who was planning to get married in the church next year.

The congregation met at a local civic club Sunday. Pastor Dees says the loss is bringing members closer together. The church has deep roots in the community, and their leader is vowing to rebuild.

"Cedar Grove dedicated their church in 1935 and the congregation dates back to the 1700s," Dees says. "There's always been a place for Cedar Grove to worship. And there always will be, if we have anything to do about it."

The fire caused so much structural damage that officials had to call off the investigation, fearing that the walls might collapse while they were inside. They may not be able to tell what started the fire until they tear the church down.

Church members will meet at the Ruritan Club for the rest of the month. After that, they may hold services at another local church until they rebuild.