FBC Montgomery worships again at arson-damaged sanctuary

Nearly a year after an arson attack damaged the church’s main sanctuary, First Baptist Church Montgomery met there again on July 24 for worship.

Pastor Mark Bethea said he was filled with “great anticipation” as he prepared for the first service at the sanctuary, which bore the brunt of the September 30 arson attack. The church reception area was also destroyed and other areas including the historic Stakely Shrine were damaged by fire and smoke. The church met in Stakely during the renovation process.

During Sunday’s service, Music Minister Ed Cleveland led the congregation in singing “To God Be the Glory,” a hymn that church members sang as they gathered in a parking lot, parking lot and other spaces after the attack.

“Great things he’s done, great things he’s still doing, and great things he will continue to do,” Bethea said. “We’re going to keep going, we’re going to keep going because great things our eyes haven’t seen yet.”

Church members have taken to social media to praise the leadership of Bethea and FBC staff over the past few months and express their thanks for the worship service.

“It was beautiful,” wrote Diane Cook. “The songs just lifted us up in praise to our God who walked with us every inch of the way!”

“I will never forget it,” wrote Ruby Henley.

“Grace and Kindness”

The service included a christening, baby dedication and a brief recap video showing the immediate aftermath of the attack and the restoration process, which included extensive repairs and cleaning across campus. Highlighted are photos of families writing Bible verses on the concrete just before new carpet was laid in the sanctuary.

“Glory to the Lord,” Bethea said.

In a Facebook post after the service, Bethea acknowledged a donation from the Montgomery Chinese Christian Church led by Pastor Dawson Zhang. Following the fire, which is believed to have been started by Auburn resident and Chinese national, Xiaoqin Yan, the Chinese congregation donated money for flowers for the shrine when the church returned there for worship.

“The flowers were beautiful and a testament to the fellowship of these wonderful believers and friends at the Montgomery Chinese Christian Church,” Bethea wrote.

Writing on Facebook, FBC member Jane Burdeshaw said the flowers were “beautiful and the gift behind them was an incredible expression of love for our church family and the unifying power of God”.

He noted that the FBC Flower Committee met to rearrange the flowers into smaller individual arrangements to bring to home members and nursing home residents.

“I love seeing the moments of grace and God’s goodness all around,” Bethea said.

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