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Public Notices

April 24, 2014

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Fire-Razed Sulphur Springs Church Will Be Rebuilt, Congregation Told

Sun Photo by Jody Snyder

Members of the congregation of the fire-destroyed Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church sing a hymn Sunday morning during a worship service in the sun room of the Helen and Hugh Shipley residence in northern Greene County. The Shipleys are members of the Sulphur Springs congregation. It was the first worship service since the church building was destroyed by a fire set by an arsonist last Thursday afternoon. The sanctuary, the oldest part of the picturesque structure, had been built in 1912.

Originally published:
Last modified: 2009-08-03 17:05:06

Three days after Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church was burned to the ground by an arsonist, Pastor Paul A. Miracle pledged to the congregation that, "God being my helper," the church will be rebuilt!

Pastor Miracle made the promise Sunday morning to members of the small congregation who had crowded into the home of two church members for regular Sunday worship. About 30 church members and a few news media representatives were present for the service.

As he assured the congregation that the building would rise again from the ashes left by Thursday afternoon's blaze, he singled out Lizzie McAmis - who at 91 is the church's oldest member and was seated in the midst of the group on Sunday morning.

"In thinking of our church that just burned, Miss Lizzie, I'm going to make you a promise," the pastor said.

"You sat as a child in the dirt outside Sulphur Springs Church while they were building it, and you watched your father and the other men build it.

"With God being my helper, you are going to sit there and watch the next one go up.

"You're 91, but you're going to be with us. You're not going to sit in the dirt. I'm going to get you a comfortable chair and something cold to drink, and you're going to watch the next one go up.

"God being my helper, that's my promise to you."

Family members said Miss McAmis can vaguely remember in 1912 playing on the construction site while the Sulphur Springs Church was being erected by church members, including her father.

Rev. Miracle also told the congregation that a meeting of the church's board will be held sometime this week to discuss plans to rebuild the church.

"We will meet and make our decisions about building," he said. "If we could get someone over there tomorrow, we would start tomorrow.

"We're going to start as soon as possible."

'Need Everyone's Input'

Howard Lamb, the church's Sunday school superintendent, said, "We need everyone's input on this."
A date for the congregational meeting had not been set as of Sunday morning.

Rev. Miracle said he had received two offers of interim meeting places for the Sulphur Springs congregation pending the rebuilding of the church building.

He said that the Baileyton Baptist Church had offered one of its two sanctuaries to the Sulphur Springs congregation and that the nearby Locust Springs Christian Retreat had offered the use of its chapel.

"You decide where I'm supposed to meet with you two weeks from now," he told the congregation.

In addition to the Sulphur Springs UMC, Rev. Miracle is the pastor of three other congregations that comprise the United Methodist Church's "Baileyton Circuit" in the northern area of the county.

As a result, he does not preside at worship services at every church each Sunday.

Prayer Offered For Boy

Speaking from behind an impromptu altar set up in the sun room of the Helen and Hugh Shipley residence on Shipley Lane on Sunday morning, Rev. Miracle also prayed for the 14-year-old who allegedly set the fire that destroyed the church last Thursday afternoon.

"May this young boy, out of this, find the help that he needs," Rev. Miracle prayed during the Sunday morning worship service. "And may his family be comforted as their hearts break."

He also asked God's blessings on "all those who have said 'What can I do to help?'"

The pastor also asked for God's blessings upon those who will take part in the rebuilding effort.

"We just pray now for a blessing upon those who put their hands to the labor of rebuilding and those who will give of themselves and what they have," he said.

"Lord, we know there will be days that we will be aggravated and sort of disheartened. In those days, Lord, help us to look up and to know that the victory is ours and all we have to do is claim it."

'Victory From Disaster'

Rev. Miracle, who preached a sermon on the importance of religious faith that he said he had prepared before last Thursday's disastrous fire, offered thanks during another Sunday morning prayer "for those people of faith who preceded us down through the years. Who built in faith. Who built with their trust in Thee that what they built would accomplish the purpose for which You had set it.

"We thank you for this church, Lord God. A church that is not in a building, but is here present in the hearts of your people, the family of God.

"I pray for them this morning that you would let them sense deep down in their spirits that out of this seeming defeat will come victory.

"We know that you are the God Who blesses your people, Who brings good things out of evil, Who works all things together for the good."

In opening remarks Sunday morning in the sun room of a two-story farmhouse owned by two descendants of the church's founders, Rev. Miracle noted that, in one sense, the Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church had been returned to its roots by last week's fire.

Founders Met in Homes

He pointed out that in the 1820s, the church had been founded by pioneers who met in private homes, just as the congregation was doing on Sunday.

His remarks came moments after the small congregation, accompanied by a piano being played in another room of the two-story, white farmhouse, had struggled through the hymn "Faith of Our Fathers."

He noted that in the 1820s congregation members, who were served by circuit-riding preachers, began meeting in homes before building the first church.

"The fact is, they built three churches before the one that was built here," he said, in reference to the just-destroyed church.

Rev. Miracle also told the congregation that he, in essence, is still a circuit-rider. "I don't ride a horse, but I do have a circuit," he said.

He promised the congregation that he would be them "when we finish this building (a new church)." He added, "We're going to put God's house back."

After completing the 10 a.m. Sunday worship service, Rev. Miracle had to leave immediately to conduct another worship service at the Doty's Chapel United Methodist Church.

The Sulphur Springs congregation continued its Sunday worship with Sunday School. The different class groups moved to separate rooms inside the Shipley residence to conduct classes.
For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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