Limestone Association, community support Cherry Grove after firecomment (0)
April 4, 2013
By Julie Payne
Standing as a beacon in the community for many years, the building of Cherry Grove Baptist Church, Athens, was reduced to a charred pile of rubble after an electrical fire Jan. 14. But in the face of this sudden and unexpected hardship, the congregation has received much support in various forms during its time of need.
Chris Pirtle, who has served as pastor of the Limestone Baptist Association church for nearly five years, recalls praying in the car en route to the church property after receiving word about the fire.
Pirtle was still two and a half miles from the church when he spotted smoke rising in the distance above the trees. “At that point it became real,” he said.
When he arrived at the church, a crowd of about 75 people — both members of the community and Cherry Grove Baptist members — had gathered in shock to watch the smoldering 6,000-square-foot building.
Cherry Grove Baptist members who were gathered at the scene, many tearful, joined together that morning for a prayer service, Pirtle said.
And the prayers only continued.
That evening during the church’s Monday night prayer meeting, which typically averages about 10 people, Pirtle said more than 40 people attended.
Assistance and support for Cherry Grove poured in from other Limestone Association churches. “Our folks have responded real well just by us putting word out” that they need assistance, said Robert Fullerton, director of missions for Limestone Association.
Many people worked on the church property after the fire, helping to clear off debris, Fullerton said. The association was instrumental in contacting the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) about Cherry Grove’s situation, and the SBOM responded by providing a mobile chapel for the church to conduct worship services.
People in the association then helped install the mobile chapel, and it was ready for the congregation’s use shortly after the fire occurred.
Pirtle said the chapel is one of the blessings the church has witnessed from this experience, and he noted how God has provided for the church’s needs. He received many phone calls from people wanting to help in the weeks following the fire, and churches have given the congregation items like hymnals and chairs. Just recently, Fullerton presented the church with a $5,000 check on behalf of the association.
A timeline for rebuilding Cherry Grove has not yet been established, and the church is currently “taking it one step at a time,” Pirtle said.
According to Fullerton, there are several carpenter missions groups in Limestone Association churches, and some people have already offered their future assistance as soon as the church is ready to rebuild.