Fire destroys Bethlehem Baptist worship building
    July 21 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

    A severe thunderstorm moved through the western North Carolina town of Taylorsville July 18, sending a bolt of lightning to the steeple of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Witnesses say the steeple ignited immediately. Fire officials reported the 3:09 p.m. lightning strike appeared to traverse a primary beam across the length of the sanctuary causing the building to quickly burn out of control.
    The church’s pastor, Wayne Caviness, said, “The sanctuary is completely destroyed. There is severe damage in the remainder of the facility.” The attached classroom building received smoke and water damage.


    Photo by Lisa Caviness

    The sanctuary was built in 1950 according to Caviness.
    Within two hours the destructive flames were put out, but crews expected smoldering to continue for approximately 24 hours. Due to the intense heat more than 150 firefighters were called to the scene from every department in Alexander County with support crews from Hickory.
    The day after the devastating loss church members and friends gathered for worship in nearby Bethlehem Elementary School’s gymnasium. Someone counted more than 375 in attendance, which Caviness said is “at least 100 more than we usually have.” They prayed and celebrated the fact that there was no loss of life and no one was hurt in the fire.
    A group met on the church property mid-afternoon Sunday. “We had prayer, sang some songs, expressed our faith in God and our resolve to go forward,” Caviness said. “Most definitely, we are planning to rebuild.” The deacons met Sunday night to discuss the church’s next steps.
    “We are definitely pulling together. We are not sure what the plan is. There is no water or electricity on the church property. We’re trying to see what can be done to restore [utility service],” Caviness added.


    Photo by Lisa Caviness

    The building was fully insured. A complete inventory of the contents will be performed, which is expected to be a painstaking process.
    Larry Phillips and his wife, Kathy, were two of four chaplaincy volunteers with North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) who attended the Sunday worship service the day after the fire.
    “We were there to talk with the members and pray with them, and let them feel the support of the Baptist State Convention and Baptist Men,” said Phillips, a former missionary through the International Mission Board, who now serves on the staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as the Unifour Strategy Coordinator with the Strategic Focus Team.
    The chaplaincy volunteers were very well received according to Phillips. “The church was very grateful and expressed their gratitude for the presence of the volunteers.”
    Phillips had arrived at the site of the burned out building Saturday afternoon as the firefighters were finishing their work. “I did get to talk with the pastor Saturday afternoon and asked him if the presence of chaplaincy volunteers would be helpful on Sunday.” The pastor was encouraged and invited the NCBM team to come, he said.


    Photo by Andrea Crouch

    “So, I made contact with Bill Fogarty, who is the team leader for the chaplaincy volunteer program of North Carolina Baptist Men. Bill got approval from Gaylon Moss and put the team together,” Phillips added. Moss is disaster relief coordinator for NCBM. Fogarty recently retired as pastor of First Baptist Church in Weddington.
    In spite of the tragic fire, the church’s leadership encouraged a group of teenagers and adults to keep a commitment to leave for the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell Monday morning. They departed on schedule to attend the popular Youth Weeks Summer Camp.
    The church operated a child care center in the now destroyed facility. It has temporarily relocated to Shiloh Lutheran Church, 1011 Shiloh Church Road in Hickory. As a licensed child care center, the change in facilities must be approved by the health inspector, fire marshal and environmental services. Church officials hope to get that approval in a few days.
    A temporary location for Sunday worship services and other ministries has not been announced.

    7/21/2015 10:49:41 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments
    Filed under: Bethlehem Baptist Church, fire, Taylorsville, N.C.

Brian K Davis
I grew up in Bethlehem Baptist Church. I came to faith in Christ, was baptized and discipled in this church. This congregation has a long tradition of training future ministers and missionaries. I grew up hearing the testimonies of young people responding to God's call to ministry and did the same myself. A number of churches across our state are blessed by ministers that grew up in this fertile soil. Thankful that the church is not defined by its facilities. Praying God's blessings on the church family.
7/21/2015 4:28:49 PM

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