March 14, 2014

Rebuilding a church

Services moved to temporary location after fire destroys church

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — ROCHESTER — Bethlehem Baptist churchgoers are making do with a temporary meeting spot after a fire destroyed much of the rural church near Rochester.

A March 7 fire burned through the roof of the sanctuary at the church that dates back almost 140 years.

Although part of the building is salvageable, the auditorium and fellowship hall will have to be rebuilt. The Sunday school area only received some smoke and water damage.

The church will have services at the hospitality room at T & T Rent-All, 2111 E. Ind. 14 in Rochester however long the space is needed. Sunday school will take place at 9:30 a.m. with morning worship at 10:30 a.m.

Church members’ goal is to build a completely new building. Church leaders have contacted an architect to start moving forward on some possible plans.

Ronald C. Purkey, a member and retired pastor who has been involved with the church since 2008, said the church will have a different look.

There are about 50 members, most of whom have attended the church for many years, Purkey said.

The wreckage caused by the fire has been devastating to the church members, as many members have been attending the church their entire lives. Several members have told stories about how they have gone to the church since their parents took them when they were children, Purkey said.

“This has been a difficult process because it has been such a community church for years,” Purkey said.

On Sunday, members got together for a uplifting church service. The theme of the service was encouragement.

Getting together for the positive message seemed to help people work through their grief, Purkey said.

“I think people were encouraged,” Purkey said.

Services will continue to meet at the new location until a new building is constructed.

For more information, call Pastor Phil Pratt at 574-223-7992.

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.