When Stephanie and I came home from our trip to Alabama where I performed a wedding we could hardly believe our eyes as we came around the curve in Arapahoe. It really breaks your heart to come to the crossroads at Arapahoe and see what’s left of Bethany Christian Church.
It saddens your heart to think that this building is now in ruins. It makes your heart sink to think that those charred pews are where our grandparents, parents, family and friends of yesteryear sat. Our hearts skip a beat when we think of all the sermons and prayers that came from the burned pulpit.
But we know that though our hearts are broken we serve a God who puts the broken pieces back together. God says to us in Isaiah 43:19: “Behold I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” And in Isaiah 40:1:” Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God.”
It is the fire of God’s love that will lead us to the doorsteps of His new church at the crossroads at Bethany. To God be the glory!
Mac Harris, left, and John Beeman, Jr. look at the site of the origin of the Bethany Christian Church fire, a hole burned all the way through the floor joists where a receptacle was located in Sunday School room #1.
Pamlico County Fire Marshall Ben Barnett said that he and investigators from the SBI Arson Investigation unit traced the source of the fire to an outside wall outlet in the rear Sunday School classroom in the Sanctuary building. They have ruled out arson or negligence as a cause of the fire. “That outlet could have been getting hot for days, and just got hot enough to set the paneling on fire, or it could have been a short circuit,” Barnette stated.
Below is a closer look at the origin of the fire.
The congregation of Bethany Christian Church gathered for the first time since fire destroyed the sanctuary, learning that the fellowship hall has also been declared a total loss. The first gathering took place under the pavilion, Tuesday, June 26, at 7:00 PM.
David Bailey, with a recovered church handbell, chimed the congregation to worship.
The church’s pastor, Gary Edge, reminded parishioners that the last Sunday in the life of this sanctuary, the youth choir, One Voice, led the worship. He said the congregation would move forward now with one voice, one heart, and one faith. He then said, “Let us pray the Lord’s Prayer with one voice.”
As parishioners recalled personal experiences, Bossy Hardison confessed to a 41 year-old misdemeanor, gluing piano keys together. Others recalled participation in Christmas pageants. Several recalled exploits of Meredith Beeman. Russell Lee admonished the group to “use this disaster as a wake-up call to strengthen this congregation.” Tammy Daw spoke of the church’s love for her family during times of crisis. Rebbecca Cowell shared her joy that her husband really found the love of Jesus in this church. Susan Lee recalled the powerful prayers of her late father-in-law, Don Lee, Jr.
And, Annette Aldridge prayed, “As we sit among the ashes with the smell of smoke all around us, we hear birds singing, reminding us of God’s eternal love.”
Sara Spalding first led the congregation in singing Amazing Grace, a tune everyone knew since there were no hymnals. When the services concluded, she had everyone join hands in a circle. She then led the prayerful group in a rendition of “Will the circle be unbroken.”
Rene` Midyette, followed by John Beeman, Jr., makes her way from the rubble with the recovered cross from the Communion Table.
The bell that has tolled over Bethany Crossing for decades was recovered, though damaged.
Insurance will most liklely cover less than half the cost of building a new sanctuary, fellowship hall, and kitchen. A massive-fund-raising effort will be undertaken. The congregation will gather for a congregational meeting in the cafeteria at Arapahoe Charter School, Wednesday, 7:00 PM, to begin the process of building a new future for the church.