Church reopens after devastating fire

June 1, 2008 8:09:33 PM PDT
Flames damaged the Whitley Memorial United Methodist Church in Smithfield in April of 2007.

The pastor of the church says the new sanctuary is a new beginning for them. Unfortunately, that's not the case for the man charged with setting fire to the church.

"I was the first one here the morning that the church burned," Church Secretary, Mary Hatcher said.

"It was still smoking the first time I came in here," Pastor, Dave Adams said.

Bryant-Phillips Associates, Inc. was contracted to restore the church back to its original state. After nine months of construction and $660,000 later, the church is fully restored.

"All the new stained glass are new, we did not have a balcony and so that's new," Adams said.

The new upgrades are nice, but for Adams, a scorched bible leads to a permanent bond between the church and the man charged with setting it on fire.

"The stand on which it sits was covered with blood, you can still see some of the blood on here from the young man who came in here and set the church on fire. He cut himself," he said.

18-year-old Alvin Parrish was charged with arson. He surprised everyone later one Sunday morning.

"The young man who actually set the fire was in worship with us that morning along with his mother and uncle and has been back and I've had the opportunity to serve him communion," Adams said.

Parrish has since been arrested for probation violation and is in prison.

"Hopefully he'll get himself straightened out and we want him to know that he's welcomed to come here," Adams added.

Pastor Adams hopes Parrish can be restored, just like the church.

"God is good and he can restore anything and he's restored this church and we're forever grateful," he said.


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