Effort – Effort for the Common Good

Roger Surprenant captured a poignant moment.

Firemen, not members of Bethany Christian Church, at significant risk, taking non-paid leave from regular jobs, during the demolition of the remaining walls of the sanctuary, saved the stained glass window over the front door of Bethany Christian Church.

There is a lesson here about many values. Rebuilding of this historic structure – this historic church home to so many people – this part of the heritage of Bethany Crossing, now called Arapahoe – this rebuilding begins. It is more than a rebuilding of a church sanctuary; it is a rebuilding of the life of Bethany Christian Church.

Ice Cream Fundraiser Sunday, July 1, Sponsored by New Bern Christian Churches

Broad Street Christian Church and Highland Park Christian Church in New Bern are co-sponsoring an ice cream social Sunday, July 1, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at
Broad Street Christian Church, 802 Broad Street, New Bern.

The event is a fundraiser to help the rebuilding effort at Bethany Christian Church. Bethany Disciples are grateful to the outpouring of support from Disciples everywhere.

Congregational Meeting Reveals Overwhelming Task Ahead

The congregational meeting held Wednesday, 7:00 PM, in the cafeteria of the Arapahoe Charter School exposed the enormity of the task that lies ahead in the rebuilding of Bethany Christian Church. The group learned the sobering news of the facility being under insured, the condemnation of the John M. Waters Fellowship Hall by the Pamlico County Building Inspector, the necessity of shoring up roof beams in the fellowship hall to make it safe before retrieval of cherished items from that structure can begin, and most desperately, the need for clear communication and coordination of this multi-faceted effort to clean up and begin the rebuilding process.

Good news was in the form of a few donations already received and the offer of help from area churches and the regional office of the Christain Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina.

Reverend Gary Edge opened the meeting reminding the 77 present that while rebuilding would require a major commitment, it would above all else require a “commitment to God.”

Regional Minister, John Richardson, displaying a photo of a fire at a church he once served, using I Kings 19:11-14 as a text, said, “The circumstances were very different for Elijah, but there is also a common point in his story and the story of Bethany Christian Church. After a tragic moment in time, it was not in the raging wind; it was not in the earthquake; it was not in the fire that Elijah discovered God’s presence. Elijah discovered God’s presence in the silence that followed.

“You too, Bethany Christian Church have the same opportunity – to discover anew the presence of God in these days following the fire of June 25, 2007.”

Sara Spaulding, Music Director of Bethany, reported that her husband, Simon, is organizing a benefit music festival for the church that they hope will become an annual event. This was one of several initiatives discussed to rebuild the sanctuary and the life of this congregation.

The need to thank firemen who took time off from work without pay, the need to organize thank-you acknowledgements to all offers and gifts of help, and above all else, the need for clear communication and coordination of rebuilding efforts were discussed. John Beeman, Jr. plans to coordinate a shoring up of the beams in the fellowship hall before people enter to retrieve cherished items. Roger Bennett will coordinate the cleaning of the hand bells, Thursday, June 28, 7:00 PM in the church nursery.

All were reminded to contact Mac Harris, 252-249-9811, Communications Director, for information to distribute to the membership. The communications committee met prior to the congregational meeting and made plans to move forward with all deliberate speed to achieve the goals of the faithful planning process.

Church Services Set for Sunday, July 1

Services on Sunday, July 1, the first Sunday after the tragic fire that destroyed the sanctuary and fellowship hall of Bethany Christian Church will be held under the pavilion on the church grounds. If there are thunderstorms, services will be moved to Camp Caroline.

Bell choir members are asked to be at the church library, Thursday evening, June 28, 7:00 PM, to clean the bells. Stored in the fellowship hall, the bells appear to be wet and dirty, but with no apparent damage.

Seventy-seven people filled the cafeteria of the Arapahoe Charter School on Wednesday night, June 27, to begin the re-building effort. A detailed account of the proceedings will be posted on Thursday, June 28. Special guest was John Richardson, from Wilson, Regional Minister for the Disciples of Christ of North Carolina.

Gary Edge, Minister, Speaks to the Bethany Family

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!

Fire Marshall States Cause of Destructive Fire – No Arson, No Human Negligence

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.

Congregation Gathers for First Time to Pray

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.”

Rebuilding is Mandatory

The following photographs, taken at the Tuesday evening prayer service on June 26, explain in great, vivid detail, the absolute necessity to rebuild this church, no matter the cost.

Saving Bits and Pieces of the Past, Planning for the Future

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.