November 16th, 2005 was a cold, cloudy, dreary day; weather that fit the mood of church members who watched their church burn to the ground.
“Just devastating to us,” is what church member Claude Smith said, after seeing the effects of an early morning fire on the decades-old building.
“My spirits are much better today than they were when I spoke to you on these same grounds before,” says Smith, outside the nearly finished, more modern looking Newell First Church of God.
Fire leveled the church not long after a new sanctuary was added. Members found a temporary home nearby and ground was broken for a new church in May. The community rallied around their efforts, providing money, labor, and fellowship.
“People of the church, people and friends have come up and helped us build. It's been great. We couldn't have done it without them, without God,” says Member Sherman Adkins.
Church members say they still haven't been told by authorities exactly what caused the fire, but it was under investigation by everyone from the ATF, FBI, all the way down to state police.
Arson was never ruled the cause, and the local fire chief said lightning could have been to blame.
Regardless of the cause, members feel like they've literally risen from the ashes. “But what we have now is nicer than what we did have, so maybe you can say some good came out if it.”
The church hopes to inhabit the new building by Christmas.