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Tuscaloosa’s Unity Baptist sees devastating fire as ‘opportunity’comment (0)

August 22, 2013

By Neisha Fuson


Tuscaloosa’s Unity Baptist sees devastating fire as ‘opportunity’

When Pastor Gene Dockery pulled up to the open plot of land next to Unity Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, he was expecting to see smoke rising from the steeple, based on what a church member had told him. Instead what he saw was something “unreal.”

Fire shot through the steeple and out the windows, and more than 40 church members watched as firefighters from five trucks fought the blaze.

The blaze started when lightning struck the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association church on the evening of Aug. 12. 

By 10 p.m., church members who live a few blocks away had arrived at the church, called 911 and notified Dockery.

“Firemen worked so gingerly and were so organized ... to try to get the fire under control,” Dockery said.

Some church members drove up to 45 miles just to be with the church body for support and to reminisce about memories made in the 1964 building that was quickly crumbling before their eyes. 

“It was a great hurt and a great shock,” Dockery said of the fire, which eventually caused the roof to fall in on the sanctuary, rendering the sanctuary unsalvageable. The nearby educational and fellowship building endured smoke and water damage according to Sam Day, Tuscaloosa Association director of missions. 

Day met at the church property Aug. 13 with the association’s administrative committee, Dockery and other church leaders and members. 

Day said he and the administrative committee were there to offer support and to help Unity Baptist think through logistics and planning. 

“It’s not the end of something but the start of something new,” Day said. “Maybe now is when God’s going to do the greatest work” at Unity.

Day said he “loved the attitude” of Dockery and the church members who said they “saw this as an opportunity.”  

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), also met with Dockery and church members Aug. 13 and said they were “very upbeat about the prospects of their future.” 

“We are going to try as Alabama Baptists to work with Tuscaloosa Baptists in helping,” said Lance, who led the gathering in a time of prayer for the church family.

On Aug. 14, more than 70 people gathered under the church’s picnic pavilion as Dockery shared a message of hope and faith from several passages of Scripture. 

Ron Parnell, SBOM facility services coordinator, attended the evening gathering and explained how a SBOM mobile chapel will be set up in the coming weeks. 

Tuscaloosa Association also will vote to approve an emergency fund to help set up water, sewage and electricity for the mobile chapel, Dockery explained. 

Several churches in the area offered their buildings for Unity’s use but Dockery said since there is a pavilion and a 30-by-45-foot tent on the property, members decided to meet there until the mobile chapel is in place. 

Prior to the fire, Unity members had renovated the sanctuary with new paint and padded pews, as well as new concrete in areas around the property, Dockery said. 

During the renovations Dockery said he thought the church was “doing a good job.” But after the fire he said, “I guess God’s going to show us just what a good job looks like.”

Church members have been on the property since the fire doing clean up and anything they could to help, Dockery said. 

He said he sensed the Lord pointing out a “hammock” at the church and he felt the Lord telling him to “get in that hammock and watch” all that He is going to do at Unity. 

The Lord provided all their needs in the past, he said, so he doesn’t doubt that the Lord will provide again.

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