Tennessee church building destroyed by fire, hope remains

TAZEWELL, Tenn. (BP) — In the early evening hours of June 1, word began spreading among members of Springdale Baptist Church that their building was on fire.

By the time most members arrived, fire had engulfed the structure, burning the building, which included the original structure from 1882, to the ground. 

A fellowship hall that has been added to the building received some fire damage, mostly water and smoke damage. Church leaders are not yet sure if it can be salvaged. Two days after the fire, the exact cause of the fire was still unknown.

“It was very devastating,” said church member David Majors, who received word about the fire while attending a birthday party for his grandson. He left as soon as he heard about the fire and noted he could see smoke billowing up in the sky almost 10 miles away.

Pastor Brandon Christian, who also had been at the same birthday party, arrived on the scene soon after the fire began.

“As the church was burning, I told our members that we’d be here on Sunday, holding a service,” he said.

And they were. Three years ago, Springdale was given the original one-room log church building that belonged to Big Springs Primitive Baptist Church, located directly across from Springdale.

Christian said the church refurbished the building and has used it for special events only.

On Sunday, June 2, the old Big Springs building once again filled the purpose it was meant to have over 200 years ago. 

Approximately 100 people were able to gather in the structure with others sitting on the front porch to hear the gospel, Christian said.

The pastor acknowledged there was a lot of emotion on Sunday mornings as the people gathered for worship. Christian said tears were shed from the oldest members to the youngest.

As the service began, “the Lord showed up,” Christian said. “It was a very encouraging day compared to where we were the night before.”

In his message, he reminded members that what they lost was “just a building. The people are the church.”

Ashley Bundren Parker, who was born and raised in the church, agreed. Though her parents were married in the church and a stained glass window was placed in the church in memory of her grandparents, it was “just a building. We hold our memories with us.”

As the shock began to wear off, Christian noted that everyone was now realizing that “God had been working when we didn’t even realize it. 

“He has opened up doors for us to grow, both spiritually and numerically,” he said.

Church members were on-site two days after the fire to begin clean-up efforts to get ready to rebuild. 

“We are blessed,” the pastor said. “We know God is on our side and we also have dedicated members who are not afraid to work.”

He acknowledged the church had insurance but noted it was probably not enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. Regardless, Christian said the church will proceed once they get clearance from the insurance company.

The pastor expressed appreciation to the entire community, which has reached out in “incredible ways” with contributions and offers to use its facilities during this time.

Christian said, however, the church will stay on the grounds and use the Big Springs building and perhaps add tents for children’s Sunday School in the summer months.

He asked Tennessee Baptists to pray that the church can begin rebuilding as soon as possible and for the members as they grieve their loss while remaining positive for their future. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

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