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.
To communicate notices of events and information of interest to the congregation and friends of Bethany Christian Church, please contact:
Bethany Christian Church
A Prayer Meeting will be held tonight, Tuesday, June 26, in the church library.
There will be a congregational meeting Wednesday, June 27, 7:00, at Arapahoe Charter School.
The church’s Communications Committee will meet Wednesday, 6:00 pm in the church library.
Participation in these meetings will be an opportunity for faith to work.
Bill McDonald, roommate of Mac Harris at Transylvania, now senior minister at Crestwood Christian Church, Lexington, KY, writes:
“I am so sad for you and all who loved that church building. As you know,
the church itself, being the people, remains. But having pastored at Midway
[Christian Church, Midway, KY], I know the huge part that a historic
building plays in the life of a church. It stands as a symbol of past
witness and future hope. So I too mourn your loss. My prayer is for this
to be a uniting, energizing moment for the church. Sometimes tragedies move
us out of our complacency or apathy and propel us to new heights. That is
my hope for Bethany. Keep the faith, my friends.”
The portrait of Jesus Christ which once adorned the sanctuary, but in recent years has been exhibited on the south wall of the John M. Waters Fellowship Hall, is still hanging on that wall while the sanctuary still smolders. The fire did major damage to the east wall of the hall adjoining the sanctuary. Windows on both sides of the portrait were knocked out and the blinds melted, but the portrait remains, just as faith in the future remains in the hearts of the Bethany Christian church family and extended family. It is believed that the church handbells have also been spared. One stained glass window remains in tact.
The church family is thankful to exhausted firemen and to a community that has been overflowing with kindness.
A trained, veteran photo-journalist, a member of the church, made photographs, not crying, but shaking. The tears came when Carolyn Broughton arrived. His wedding to her in this sanctuary, their childhood church home, was only four weeks away.
A prayer service is planned for Tuesday, June 26, 7:00 PM at the Banks Pavillion to pray for God’s strength in this hour of need after the loss of the Bethany Christian Church Sanctuary. Sunday Services will most likely be held at Camp Caroline. Photos of the fire will be posted soon along with what will be many stories of rebuilding.