Members hold on to faith after fire damages South Columbus UMC
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Rev. Reggie Williams and the South Columbus United Methodist Church congregation are holding on to hope, scripture and each other after a fire damaged the church’s sanctuary in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 23.
Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” is a life verse for Rev. Williams, and the entire South Columbus congregation is holding on to that promise as they move forward and rebuild their church.
“It (the church) will be better than what it was, but it’s still hurtful,” Rev. Williams said. “At the same time we are looking forward to what the future holds and are trying to be as optimistic as possible. We’re holding on to scripture.”
At about 1:20 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving, Rev. Williams received a call alerting him to the fire.
A suspected electrical fire had broken out in the sanctuary’s balcony and caused extensive damage to the entire sanctuary and smoke damage throughout the church.
While the majority of the damage is contained to the sanctuary, Rev. Williams said that the entire church’s ceiling will need to be replaced because of the widespread smoke damage.
The fire rendered the sanctuary uninhabitable and unusable, so worship services, Bible studies and weekly gatherings have been temporarily relocated.
Columbus-area United Methodist churches have reached out to the congregation and offered the use of facilities, financial support, and more, Rev. Williams said.
“It’s been tremendous, the outpouring of support,” he said.
Just two days after the fire, the South Columbus UMC congregation worshipped in St. Luke United Methodist Church’s ministry center. For three weeks, they combined their two Sunday-morning services into one noon service.
M.L. Harris United Methodist Church opened its doors to South Columbus UMC’s music ministry so that their choir was able to continue their rehearsals.
The United Methodist connection is at work, Rev. Williams said, and hands have been extended as the family of Christ to the South Columbus UMC congregation.
It will take four to six months for the sanctuary to be rebuilt, and the church is looking to relocate their worship services and weekly activities to the former Sherwood United Methodist Church building. Sherwood UMC merged with Edgewood United Methodist Church and became Living Grace United Methodist Church, so their former property is vacant and for sale. Rev. Williams and church leaders are working out the details to lease space there for the next several months.
“It has been a huge blessing to have somewhere to worship, but at the same time we need to get back to normalcy in terms of the number of services and the timing,” Rev. Williams said. “I can’t say enough about St. Luke. They truly live out the connection.”
He’s also quick to thank the other area churches and people that have reached out to the congregation during South Columbus UMC’s time of need.
Columbus-area churches have generously responded to South Columbus UMC’s need, said Dr. Buddy Cooper, Columbus District Superintendent.
“St Luke UMC has allowed South Columbus to meet in their ministry center on Sundays until they can temporarily relocate to Sherwood UMC’s sanctuary, where they’ll be until their restoration is complete,” he said. “We really are connected at the heart in our Columbus United Methodist community.”
The Columbus District Board of Missions met on Friday, Dec. 7 and authorized a donation of $10,000 to go towards South Columbus UMC’s restoration.
Church members are sad for their loss, but are faithful and hopeful, Rev. Williams said.
“I think people are looking to that (scripture) and know and see that, even in the midst of this, God’s hand is upon us and we will come back stronger. The church members have responded with such great faith.”