JASPER, Ala. (WIAT) - Rising from the ashes a church congregation is gathering to worship despite the Friday fire that destroyed its sanctuary.
Prayer and singing filled the Family Life Center at the Jasper First Church of the Nazarene on Sunday. There were some tears, but overall it was a celebration.
"Church worship continues today you know mixed emotions coming in to the sanctuary this morning, but the church is not the building the church is the people and the people are excited," said Jeremy Pass, Youth Pastor and Interim Pastor.
Friday evening around seven o'clock the building was engulfed in flames.
"It was a lightning strike in the mechanical room of the church and basically when it hit the mechanical room the fire just went all over the building pretty quickly," said Greg Story, District Superintendent and outgoing head pastor.
The church has dealt with a fire in the same building before in 1996.
"It was same thing, a lightning strike, not this extensive. It damaged a portion of the sanctuary in 96," said Story.
"It's a complete loss. We lost our main sanctuary our children's sanctuary and all of our education classes through that," said Pass.
Pass says he was stunned when he saw the flames Friday night.
"Shocked just- you don't expect that and my initial reaction was to run in and to stop it, but then you realize this is not something of my magnitude I, I can't do anything about this. It's gone," said Pass.
Instead of cursing their fate church members are counting their blessings that no one was injured or killed.
"Normally on a Friday night the building would be covered, children all over and had that been the case it would have been a definite loss of life. Because trying to gather the children up and get them out would have been a, just a tragic situation," said Story. "No one was here which is almost unheard of for no one to be here with the activities going on on a Friday night so the Lord was definitely watching over us in that sense."
"We are very thankful. The items, the building all of that is, that can be replaced, but obviously lost life is irreplaceable so we are very thankful," said Story.
Pass says churches from around the world have responded with prayers and words of encouragement in part because of how fast word travels through social media.
"It's been amazing the response we've had literally from around the world, the people that have been calling and praying and encouraging," said Pass.
They expect to be meeting in their Family Life Center for at least the next year.
"Everybody sees this as a new opportunity. They understand the church is the people, not the building. They see as this an opportunity to show the community how the church responds, as Christians, how we respond in a tragic situation and really continue the work, continue the outreach ministry that we have at our church. There's already discussion of doing an appreciation dinner for the fire department that was here working all night, so it's just a tremendous spirit, tremendous attitude just know things are going to get bigger and better and it's not going to stop us in the process at all," said Story.
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