Sunday, January 18, 2004

Church begins fire recovery


Service at YMCA to focus on faith

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PHOTO GALLERY
First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church suffered more than $500,000 in damage from Friday's fire.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
Photo gallery of Friday's fire.
DAYTON, Ky. - Days before fire ravaged his church, the Rev. Allan Daigle had been crafting a sermon about how God guides people through difficulties.

There won't be stained glass or 100-year-old pews, but Daigle will preach that message this morning to the 300 members of First Baptist Church as they gather in the town's YMCA Teen Center. The Y offered its building for the church's 10:45 a.m. service.

"I can't try to explain what happened, and I'm really not asking God, 'Why?'" Daigle said of the fire, which ripped through the historic 109-year-old church on Friday. "I'm asking God to teach us what we have to learn from this situation."

Following any crisis, Daigle will tell his congregation, the first step to recovery is commitment. In this case, a recommitment to what God wants for the church. Fire can destroy buildings, but it cannot destroy their faith.

Their recovery started early Saturday morning.

Church leaders received numerous offers to host the service from other churches and nearby business owners, Daigle said.

The Y was chosen for its size and convenience. It's located at 625 Second Ave., a few blocks from the church.

Daigle spent Saturday morning huddled with church leaders at Dayton Chili and Family Restaurant, placing cell phone calls to clean-up crews and making plans for the congregation's future.

Daigle, who has been pastor for four years, said he hopes to decide by mid-week where to host future Sunday services.

The church, the oldest in this Ohio River town, apparently caught fire as workers were repairing the roof. No one was hurt in the blaze that caused more than $500,000 in damage.

Although an official case has yet to be determined, authorities suspect that workers using torches started the fire.

About 75 firefighters from at least six fire departments battled the blaze Friday. A firewall and firefighters' efforts stopped the blaze from spreading to the attached gym and educational building.

At some point during the fire, the roof collapsed, destroying any hope of saving the sanctuary.

"We do have some electricity in the building," Daigle said. "Right now, we need the utility company to tell us if it's safe to turn the gas on."

About 3 inches of water pooled in the basement, said 75-year-old Marvin Flinchum, a deacon with the church.

The building was insured and the church will be rebuilt in some way, but it's too early to say how, Daigle said.

Donations to the church can be made at any Fifth Third Bank and be directed to the First Baptist Church Fire Fund.

E-mail mleingang@enquirer.com




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