Parsons church experiences revitalization one year
after fire destroys sanctuary
By Lonnie Wilkey
PARSONS — As the first anniversary of the fire that destroyed the building of Bear Creek Baptist Church in Parsons approaches, the memory of Jan. 21 is still vivid in the mind of pastor Adam Wood, down to the exact minutes.
Bear Creek had ended its evening worship service and, as was typical, Wood and his wife were the last to leave — that night at 7:24 p.m. Eight minutes later he received a call that the church was on fire.
As they returned to the church they could see the glow. By the time they arrived the fire had engulfed the church and in two or three hours the church burned to the ground, Wood recalled.
Nearly 170 people from the church and community gathered to watch the church burn. It was a tough night, Wood acknowledged. “We have members who have been at the church for more than 70 years.”
It was a blow to the historic 175-year-old church that has struggled in recent years. When Wood accepted the pastorate more than three years ago, attendance had dipped to about 12 people. The church began to grow under the leadership of Wood, a bivocational pastor who serves as the band director at nearby Lexington High School.
A year later, Wood now sees the hurt and devastation of that night as “a blessing.”
Once the shock wore off and the remains of the church were removed, church members bounced back with a positive spirit, the pastor said. Though the church received numerous offers from local churches to use their facilities, members felt they needed to keep their presence in the community.
Wood is appreciative of all the offers of help from other churches in Beech River Baptist Association and beyond and all the calls offering encouragement and prayer, some of which came from the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board staff including Randy C. Davis, president and executive director, and Roc Collins, director of strategic objectives. “To know we had that support is what Christian community is about — supporting each other in times of need.”
The church parsonage, which was not being used, was not touched by the fire, so members have been using it for worship services. Though not very large, the building has sufficed. “We wanted to stay home,” Wood stressed.
When the church was established, it was on the primary road between Parsons and Lexington. Over the years, the roads changed and the church could no longer be seen from the main highway even though the sign was there.
The fire enabled the remaining members to evaluate their situation and they voted overwhelmingly to buy four acres adjacent to the church on the main road and relocate.
“We will be more visible to the community,” Wood affirmed, adding that relocation probably would not have happened without the fire.
Since the fire, the church has clung to the promise found in Romans 8:28, he noted. “We know God has a plan and purpose.”
Following the fire, the church began to grow. “In the last six months, we have added more members than we had in the previous three years,” Wood said. “The church is coming back.”
He also observed that not having the building has reminded everyone that the church is the people, not a building. “It has been healthy in a bizarre way. It has made us take a closer look at what it means to be a church.
“It has helped solidify our trust and faith in God. Even when terrible things happen, He is still good and in control.”
Wood observed that the congregation also realizes God has a purpose for the church to fulfill in Decatur County. “This has given us a renewed passion for Kingdom work,” he affirmed.
The church recently selected a contractor and construction will begin soon, Wood said. The church hopes to be in their new facility by the end of 2019.
While the new building will be smaller than the previous sanctuary “it will be more than adequate to meet our needs,” the pastor said, adding that the building will be designed so it can be added to later if needed.
In addition, with insurance from the previous building and special gifts, the new church is expected to be built debt-free. “God has provided exactly what we needed,” Wood said.
During the year of construction, Wood’s goal is to see the church continue on its path of revitalization. “We are focused on reaching people and growing,” he pledged. B&R