ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (Grace Thornton) — Pastor John Price said he doesn’t know yet how the fire started in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Orange Beach. And he doesn’t know why.
But he does know he’s grateful for the provision of God through the buildings the church still has and the gracious response of the Alabama Baptist community.
“We appreciate folks’ prayers,” he said. “Been so blessed to have all of our sister churches here call and offer their prayers and offer to help, and we’ve been grateful for the community of Baptists around the state rallying to support us.”
The fire, which started a little after 5 a.m. on Jan. 31, quickly engulfed the church’s worship center in flames, according to Jimmy Nichols, deacon chairman.
The exact cause is still unknown, but officials have told church leaders they believe it was not begun by criminal activity.
“By the time the fire department was on the scene, flames were shooting from the roof,” he said. “The structure is still standing, but about half of the building inside has been damaged by fire.”
The church lost musical instruments and hymnals, and the adult and children’s Sunday School space suffered smoke and water damage. Insurance adjusters don’t yet know the extent of the damage to the other end of the building, which housed educational space and the church offices, Price said. “We are in a wait-and-see kind of mode with that.”
But the church is already switching gears to ready for services in its old worship center, a building that’s been housing youth group gatherings and other activities since the new sanctuary was built in the mid 1990s.
“Our immediate plan is to just roll right into the buildings we already have,” Price said. “We’re blessed to have our old church worship center and facilities still standing and ready to go. Between that and our insurance coverage, we know we have what we need to recover fully.”
Not only that — he said he also believes this will be a time of “renewal and reinvigoration” for the church.
The members of the congregation will each process what happened differently, he said, but as a whole, “we are sad about the building but at the same time realizing that God’s going to work through this. There will be positive to come out of the negative. It’s an opportunity for a new day at First Baptist Church of Orange Beach.” (Debbie Campbell contributed)