By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DAYTON, Ky. - The sanctuary was between basketball hoops. The altar was a folding table. Hymns were played on an electronic keyboard, not the century-old pipe organ.
But parishioners from First Baptist Church were glad to be home.
Allan Daigle, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dayton, Ky., holds Sunday services in the school gym six weeks after an accidental fire destroyed the sanctuary.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
About 80 congregants gathered Sunday morning in their church gymnasium, next door to the burned-out shell of the 109-year-old sanctuary gutted six weeks ago.
"It feels better to be in your old church, even if it's only your gym," said Clarence Lightfoot, 73. "We want to put things back again. It will not be the same building, but it will be the same church."
The church had been holding Sunday services at a YMCA.
Congregants and the pastor called the fire a blessing, noting that church attendance has grown since the fire. They say the tragedy brought them closer, and they've been overwhelmed by community support.
"We're too blessed to be depressed," said Marvin Flinchum, a member of First Baptist since 1955. "We have lots of people who aren't usually here who came here today. It's just showing the strength of the Lord."
Congregants and other donors in Greater Cincinnati have given more than $37,000 to the church's fire fund.
The church's insurance company hired a contractor to inventory what needs to be rebuilt. Church leaders hope to have a cost estimate by mid-March.
Sunday, the pastor, Allan Daigle, spoke in his sermon about the apostle Paul and the letters he wrote from prison in Rome.
"Paul would not let his circumstances dictate how he reacted," Daigle said, referring to scripture from the book of Timothy. "If Paul wasn't in prison in Rome, would we have these letters? Maybe it was God's plan to put Paul in prison. Maybe it was God's way of saying, 'I need to talk with you.'"
Paul, Daigle implied, is one of the best examples of how to react to dire situations.
Members said Sunday what they've said since the fire - that what burned was the building, not the church.
"We feel God has a plan for us," said Ruth Richardson, church treasurer.
"When something like this happens, people see tragedy and realize they have to turn to God. We really feel this is more a blessing than a tragedy. We know God is with us regardless of what happens."
What: Benefit for First Baptist Church's rebuilding fund, with Elvis concert, a silent auction and a bake sale
When: Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m. until midnight
Where: Dayton High School gymnasium, Dayton, Ky.
Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for children
More info: Call Randy at (859) 655-9982
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