Church Holds First Service Since Fire

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

May 7, 2006

Despite not being in their own sanctuary, worship continued for one congregation on Sunday. The congregation for the Charlottesville Church of Christ held services at Buford Middle School just three days after a fire nearly destroyed their church.

Sunday was all about celebration for the members of the Charlottesville Church of Christ. The service was filled with music and prayer. Just about everyone there said that it was not about where they gathered, but what they do to keep their faith.

"I would hope that what we have done here this morning would encourage the people that they can look and see and appreciate what they do have, when it's restored again," said Rufus Hayes, the pastor of the church.

When we first met Pastor Hayes Thursday night at the scene of a fire that nearly destroyed his church, we were taken aback by his positive outlook. On Sunday that same upbeat attitude was back as his congregation met for the first time since that fire.

"I wasn't forlorn or depressed or down, and that's a good sign," said Pastor Hayes.

The message at the service on Sunday was upbeat. Many there said they were simply grateful to be with each other, regardless of the location.

"It's not about a building, because this is just mortar brick and stone. But it's the spiritual man that lives in the heart, and you can praise God anywhere," said Rosemary Hayes, the pastor's daughter-in-law.

There was also a particularly special moment Sunday morning when the congregation prayed for Jason Scott Santos. He was the homeless man police said was responsible for accidentally starting the fire, after he broke into the church to cook food.

"I felt sad for him, because he must have been pretty desperate to have to do something like that," said Gary Anderson who drove from Richmond to be at Sunday's service. "So it's important that we keep that in mind and we pray for him because it could be me- It could be anybody."

But above all else, Sunday was about music, prayer and celebration, even though it is still unclear how long it will take to repair the church itself.

"We don't know how long it's going to be before we'll be back there again," said the pastor. "But we're encouraged to go on. I don't even know where we're gonna be next Sunday, but we'll lighten that up to," he joked.

A fund has been set up to help the church raise money for the reconstruction. The Charlottesville Church of Christ Fire Disaster Fund is through Wachovia bank.

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