A nearly 200-year-old church building burned to the ground in a “scene of complete devastation” last week but firefighters were able to pull a historic Bible from the blaze giving the congregation hope to cling to.
The fire took place in Oxford, Mississippi at College Hill Presbyterian Church. It was built in 1844 and the Bible has sat on the pulpit every day for 178 years.
“We are a Bible-believing church, and we believe that that is the word of God, and that is sustaining,” Doug Paul, one of the church’s elders, told WATN-TV. “And so the idea that essentially nothing in this church survived but the word of God — that’s not lost on us.”
The fire on the evening of August 13 completely destroyed the building, quickly taking with it all of the original pews and stained glass. But the Bible made it out thanks in part to the fact that someone had closed it that evening just hours before the fire, despite the fact that it’s usually left open.
Paul says that while the congregation is heartbroken it is also hopeful and confident in God’s provision.
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“The first response on Sunday is heartbreak,” Paul said. “But there is just as much as there is a heartbreak, there’s also hope and a confidence that, if God protected us for the first 180 years, there’s no reason why we’re not going to build again and be protected for another 180.”
The congregation gathered for Sunday morning worship in the church’s education building, which was untouched by the fire the morning after the blaze and continued praising God. In a video clip posted to the church website, the congregation came and sang together ‘It Is Well.”
“The body remains, and we will meet weekly to worship the King!” the statement says.
This article has been reprinted with permission from CHVN Radio.
Journalist Mike Thom is program director at CHVN in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.