Keeping faith through the flames
Churchgoers, community members and surrounding churches have united to offer prayer, faith and support for Mount Pleasant C.M.E. Church on Hudlow Road in Union Mills, after lightening struck the 147-year-old church and ignited an interior fire on Tuesday, July 9.
"I want to give thanks to the community for their help and support during this difficult time," said Starr Wright, pastor of Mount Pleasant C.M.E. Church.
Church members and supporters were at the location Saturday afternoon assessing the church's damage, working to clean up some of the debris and keeping their faith in plans to repair.
"We are going to do everything we can with the community and our membership to ensure they get the right kind of guidance," said James E. Russell Jr., one of the church's presiding elders. "The community and surrounding churches have been very helpful in offering their support and assistance."
According to Union Mills Fire Chief Dean Conner, the fire began after lightening struck a power line that runs into the church's interior.
"The fire started beneath the floor and burned up through the floor into the sanctuary, and then through an outside wall," Conner said. "We believe the wiring that runs underneath the floor was the fire's point of origin."
When firefighters from Union Mills, Hudlow and Shingle Hollow fire departments arrived at the scene, the flames were inside the church and beginning to spread to the exterior of the building.
"The fire had burned probably as much as an hour or more underneath the floorboards before it came out of the building as was visible," Conner said. "A passerby saw the fire and said it was just coming through the wall when he called us."
Although it was a decent size fire, Conner said firefighters extinguished the flames in a short time.
"The fact that the church building itself is tight means there is not a lot of air movement, which helped us out a lot," Conner said. "The building has quite a bit of damage, but it appears that they are going to be able to rebuild the damage."
Conner reported there were no injuries sustained in the fire.
The church has insurance and is awaiting the final adjustment on the repairs.
Until the church is repaired, services are being held at the community clubhouse in Union Mills.
"We are going to continue to offer help where we can in the church, provide encouragement and give prayer for the church members," said Thomas Hoyt, a senior bishop in the C.M.E. Church.