By Kara Witherow, Editor
After a Feb. 1 fire destroyed Brunswick First United Methodist Church’s electrical system, the congregation will worship in a warehouse for the next several months, said senior pastor Dr. Wright Culpepper.
The fire, which started outside, did little actual physical damage other than breaking windows and melting blinds, but critically damaged the church’s power supply.
The fire filled the entire church with smoke. Carpets, ceiling tiles, pews – anything with a soft surface – has to be replaced.
Due to ongoing supply-chain issues it will take months for parts to come in, said Dr. Culpepper, so church leaders had to come up with an alternative location for worship services, Sunday school classes, and other small group meetings.
“In normal circumstances it would be a fairly easy fix,” he said of the repairs. “It’s not the scale of the disaster, it’s an availability issue.”
While they wait, the congregation will relocate to an adjacent building on the church’s property. But in order to use the building, called the Annex, numerous repairs and safety issues there must first be addressed.
The church’s insurance policy is great, Dr. Culpepper said, and will cover all of the fire-related repairs minus the $1,000 deductible. It won’t, however, cover all that’s needed to get the Annex up and running.
The Annex’s repairs, while necessary for safety and use, are costly. The air conditioning unit alone will cost about $15,000.
The South Georgia Conference’s Disaster Response Team, in partnership with the Conference Outreach Team, has responded with a $10,000 disaster response emergency grant to help with repairs to the Annex so the congregation can worship in the space.
“I’m thankful for the churches and individuals in South Georgia who have graciously given to disaster response over the years so that we can respond immediately to a church in need,” said Kelly Roberson, Connectional Ministries Team Leader and Director of Communications.
Church leaders looked for other venues in which to worship and meet, Dr. Culpepper said, but there’s little availability that fits the congregation’s needs.
In addition to weekly worship services, the church regularly hosts several community groups, from Cub Scouts to the local Penguin Project children’s special needs musical theater production to Red Cross blood drives.
“We want to try to figure out how to continue to meet the needs of those populations,” he said. “We will do all we can do to make a place for them and their activities.”
Dr. Culpepper hopes to have the Annex cleaned and the safety issues addressed in time for Sunday, Feb. 20’s worship services. In the couple of weeks since the fire they’ve gathered at Brunswick High School.
He’s grateful for the way in which the congregation and the Brunswick First UMC staff have responded to the disaster.
“I’m really appreciative of the attitude they’ve got, and I really feel like once this is all said and done we’ll be better and stronger.”