A Baptist church in Snow Hill found multiple blessings in the two years since its sanctuary was destroyed by fire.
The sanctuary at Davis Grove Baptist Church, which was more than 100 years old, burned Dec. 3, 2006.
“What started out as one of the most devastating events a church could possibly face has in time proven to be a blessing and an opportunity to see the wonderful provision of a loving God,” Doug Nalley, the church’s pastor, said in a written statement.
The old sanctuary with a seating capacity of not more than 115 people has been replaced with a debt-free, $600,000 sanctuary with a seating capacity of more than 230. While the old sanctuary was beautiful, it had few modern conveniences or technologies. The new building has a top of the line sound and projection system.
The church was landlocked on less than an acre of land. It now owns six acres.
Before the fire, the church had a small 2,000-square-foot fellowship hall. Now it has added a 5,000-square-foot family life center.
“The old church was a historic and beautiful structure that the members had treasured through the years,” Nalley said.
“The sentimental attachment to the old church was strong and the loss was great. However, care was taken in the design and construction of the new church to incorporate … many features of the old building into the new.”
Nalley said the new sanctuary already holds a special place in the hearts of church members because of its own uniqueness and character.
Eighteen of the 22 stained glass windows from the old church made it through the fire, but all were severely damaged. Myers Stained Glass, which made the windows, restored the ones that were damaged and remade those that were destroyed.
Three new windows were added. One is an image of the original church in the grove of oaks. The other two were added in memory of two children who died tragically in separate incidents during the course of the rebuilding.
Solid oak pews in the old church building survived the fire but were damaged and too small for the new church.
They were cut into boards and incorporated into the new church as the chair rail that makes up the wall trim.
Pulpit furniture severely damaged in the fire was restored by a family in the church and is used in the new sanctuary. Most pieces still bear visible burn marks that serve as reminders of the fire.
The original 1902 pulpit chair and a single pew from the 1902 church survived the fire. They were carefully restored and now sit in the corridor that connects the old fellowship hall to the new sanctuary.
A Bible stand that sits on the communion table is the centerpiece of the new church, Nalley said. It holds a Bible that replaces one severely damaged in the fire. The surface of the Bible stand is made from five oak boards, each one taken from one of the five oak trees the founding members gathered under in 1902.
For 100 years, the old church had a large oak on either corner of the front of the church. Hurricane Isabel took one tree down, while disease required the other to be cut. Two large cabinets, each made from one of the old trees, sit in the new church on either side of the vestibule. One is a display case with artifacts from the fire, including the severely burned Bible opened to the book of Job. The other cabinet holds bulletins and literature.
“While the new building is beautiful and contains many precious treasures that give testimony to the history and heritage of the church, the greatest testimony of all is the testimony of the church family and the community to the faithfulness and provision of God,” Nalley said.
After the church building burned, the members prayed and sang together, “Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow.”
“Christians everywhere sing this song all the time; some not giving much thought to the profound message it contains,” Nalley said. “However, we have lived it and as we close each service singing it, it reminds us just what God has done, is doing and will do for us as we trust Him.”
Nalley said that in the weeks leading up to the fire, church members were studying verse by verse through Psalm 73. The day of the fire the scheduled text was verses 23-26.
“Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory. Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.”
“What better promises could the Lord give us on the day our church burned than these promises?” Nalley said. “Just as the psalmist believed at the beginning of the psalm that God had somehow forgotten Him in all his troubles, we too could have been tempted to feel the same thing. But God had already prepared us and gave us on our darkest day, these precious promises that have sustained us through this long process.
“Our church family has learned and knows that whatever they face in their life, they can face with confidence because God is right there with them; He holds them by their hand; He guides them with His counsel; and when He is finished with them here on earth, He will take them up in glory!”