Parishioners lose church to fire but not their hope

September 16, 1995|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

A five-alarm fire yesterday destroyed their East Baltimore church and the pastor's 120-year-old Bible. But parishioners of Emmanuel Apostolic Faith Church are hoping the blaze is "an unfortunate blessing."

About a dozen parishioners, some chanting "Keep praising the Lord" as they hauled soot-covered furniture from the brick building in the 1300 block of N. Gay St., tried to take the tragedy in stride.

NTC "We call it an unfortunate blessing because we lost our last church about 10 years ago when a wall caved in, but the Lord blessed us with this building," said Guy Barnes, 32, the pastor's son. "We have to work through this. We know God is with us."

Firefighters estimate the fire caused $350,000 in damage. It started in the pastor's office about 12:40 a.m., possibly because of an electrical short, said Lt. Thurman Pugh, a Department spokesman.

"It was hard to see all those flames. This building has been a light to a lot of young people over the years," Mr. Barnes said. "We try to give kids a place to go where they can be away from drugs, and where they learn that it's wrong to go out and rob someone."

The modest two-story building has housed several congregations over the decades. Church officials are hoping they can save the building, but several church heirlooms have been lost, they said.

"I lost a treasure load of Bibles, religious commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, the works," said the Rev. William S. Barnes Jr.

One of the Bibles that burned was 120 years old, he said. "It was given to me by a friend of mine who went blind. I don't know how I can place a value on it; they just don't make them like that ## anymore."

Emmanuel's 75 or so parishioners were looking forward to the completion of a remodeling project that would have converted the church garage into an auditorium -- a project laid waste by the fire.

Deacon Donnell Evans, 36, said he and about 50 other members had attended evening services Thursday ending about 10 o'clock. He said everything appeared normal when he and other deacons locked the doors and left about midnight.

Parishioner Marie Goodwin, 43, was helping to retrieve the church valuables from the charred rooms yesterday. "It's pretty bad. I really don't think we'll be able to move back. Most of the roof has collapsed."

L But she added, "The Lord will bless us with something else."

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