DEVOTION — Prayers were lifted and tears fell as members of Mitchell River Primitive Baptist Church listened to the first sermon preached in their newly rebuilt church, nearly five years after the former building was destroyed by fire.
The small wooden church, located in the Devotion community near the Mitchell River, had no electricity, no running water, no bathrooms — and no insurance when the 200-year-old structure was destroyed in an Oct. 13, 2007 blaze.
Yesterday, more than three dozen people were on hand for a dedication ceremony in the new building.
Pastor Gary Lowe welcomed the congregation.
“I can’t begin to tell you the joy of this time — this moment,” said Lowe.
He said ever since the church was established nearly two centuries ago, it has never ceased to be a church.
While church members faithfully waited for the new building to be finished, they worshipped in the living room of longtime church member Elizabeth Southard, who is now 90 years old. She was at the dedication service with her daughter, Catherine Holder, and longtime friend and church member, Charlene Pierce.
The church was rebuilt to modern building codes, as required. Now the church has running water, indoor plumbing, lighted exit signs and a handicapped ramp.
“A lot of people wanted it built back the way it was, but we had to obey the laws of the land,” said Lowe.
There are only nine active members — most of them are on fixed incomes, so paying to rebuild the church was no easy feat.
Lowe said while the church was finished to code enough to satisfy Surry County building inspectors, there is still much work that needs to be done.
“This is all kind of new to have electricity and restrooms in the house, but the purpose and intent of why we assemble is the same. The love we that we have for the Lord — it has never changed,” said Lowe.
One of the projects that needs work is an expansion of the gravel parking. Lowe said there are other odds and ends that need attention as well.
Lowe said people have responded with donations large and small. Some even dropped by to lend a hand.
“Surely the Lord must be in it all,” said Lowe. “We built by faith and every time it looked bleak, the Lord would bless us.”
No arrests have been made in connection with the 2007 fire at one of the county’s oldest churches.
There will be communion and a foot washing service today at the church starting at 10 a.m.
The church is located on Haystack Road just past River Road heading west.
Reach Mondee Tilley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.