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'New Era' Starts for Cedar Grove Church

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CEDAR GROVE — Members of an Orange County church are counting their blessings on this Christmas Eve. Cedar Grove United Methodist Church was devastated by a fire two weeks ago tonight. But they are calling the experience the beginning of a new era.

They feel that what burned was merely a structure and that the congregation and the church are the people who come to worship/

Flames ripped through the historic building, leaving only the stone walls and the congregation's faith intact.

The congregation has offered thanks to the firefighters who spent hours battling the blaze. For many of them, it was a very personal loss. They also thank the people who lent their support that night and in the days following.

Today's service was organized by the youth ministry, many of whom have never known another church.

They celebrated under a tent on the grounds of the scorched church. The sanctuary was a landmark in the historic community of Cedar Grove.

"The night it burned," recalled church member Martin Rigsbee, "I was talking to a man who was here as a young child when they used mules to dig the basement for this church."

Members will develop plans for a new sanctuary over the next few months. Until then, they will take comfort in knowing the heart of their church survived the fire.

When they go into the future, they will remember that it is not about how much money they spend, or how big the church is, or what it looks like. All that will matter is that all of them are there when the doors reopen that first Sunday morning."

A nearby church will let the Cedar Grove congregation use its facilities until they rebuild.