May 5, 2006
A number of people from the Charlottesville Church of Christ's congregation were at the church in the very early hours of Friday morning. Many of them had stories and memories to share about the church, but one person also there was the church's pastor.
Pastor Rufus Hayes has been with this church from the beginning. He and his family built it themselves, cutting down trees, leveling ground and digging the foundation.
"It was quite a job," said Hayes. "In fact we built the church about 17 years ago."
That was when his congregation moved from downtown to Fifth Street Extended. But late Thursday night he got a call that changed everything.
"I was in bed. Somebody called me at about 20 minutes to twelve, and said that somebody had informed them...that the church was on fire. So the only thing I could do was get up and get dressed as quick as I could and get over here," he said.
Members of the congregation also rushed to the scene. Many of them also have been part of the church's family since the laying of the first brick.
"When this church was being built, I was part of the sweat and labor," said Ric Howard, a member of the congregation. "I have sweat equity in this building."
Chucky Hayes is the pastor's grandson. Tonight he remembered many memories at Charlottesville Church of Christ and he says when he got the call about the fire, he had to see it first hand.
"When I first got here and saw the flames--I can't even explain it to you what went through my mind," said the grandson. "I was like, 'okay, what can I do?'"
As the pastor stood watching the church, he was remarkably calm. He says his faith was what helped the most.
"I have no control of this," said the pastor. "This is God's property. I'm not going to worry about it. God knows what's going on."
Believe it or not, just about everyone from the congregation who watched the fire were actually upbeat about the fire, considering the circumstances. They said they were not sure how they would hold service on Sunday, but they would.