Local News

After Fire, Church Leaders Proclaim: 'We Will Rebuild'

Posted August 12, 2007 7:09 p.m. EDT

— Fire destroyed their sanctuary, but members of Union Chapel United Methodist Church still gathered for worship Sunday.

Singing “Amazing Grace,” about 90 worshipers held service in the fellowship hall - the only area untouched by Friday’s fire. More than 70 firefighters from all over Vance and Franklin counties worked for hours to put out the fire.

“We will rebuild, and we will be stronger than before. I promise,” said Lay Leader Tony Sanford.

Lightning might be to blame for the blaze that reduced part of the 178-year-old church to rubble. Investigators have not released an official cause.

“We need to be asking, ‘Lord, how do you want us to respond to this, to bring glory to yourself?’” said Pastor Robert Hammond.

The faithful respond by coming to worship. While Bibles, hymn books and 178 years of history went up in smoke, one of the few items untouched by the fire was a picture of Jesus that hung behind the pulpit.

“Untouched, unscarred, unsmoked - it's just in perfect condition,” Sanford said.

The sanctuary was not as lucky. Among many other items, the church lost its stained glass windows, which were brought in from Europe and dated back to the early 1800s.

“People ride by it every day. There’s the beautiful church with the beautiful stained glass windows. And now, it’s gone,” Sanford said.

The loss was especially hard for Shirley Frazier, who has been a member of the church for 71 years.

“I was born here. I was baptized here. My children were born here. I got married here,” she said.

Church leaders say building a new sanctuary will take one to two years and will cost about $1 million. Insurance will probably only cover about $400,000, they said, because they couldn't afford a policy that covered the church's worth.

Church leaders said they plan to hold fund-raisers to get the rest of the money needed. They also plan to hold a barbecue to thank all the firefighters for saving their fellowship hall.

Already, businesses, groups, churches and individuals from the community have begun donating money to the church.

For those interested, donations can be sent to:
Union Chapel United Methodist Church
c/o Pastor Robert Hammond
6479 Raleigh Road
Kittrell, N.C. 27544