Cause of blaze is still under investigation
by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Authorities are still investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed the 40-year-old sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, Arkansas last week. The fire broke out last Thursday night in the A-frame structure. No one was injured.
A half-dozen fire departments responded to the blaze around 7:45 p.m. and neighbors watched as the structure collapsed in the flames.
“It’s so sad because some members stood and watched the church burn all the way to the ground. It was a total loss,” said Leslie Belden, temporary stated clerk for the Presbytery of Arkansas. “It’s a small congregation of about 20 people. Most have been members of the church for many years and they couldn’t save anything in the church. The congregation is in grief.”
Belden says the church was founded in the 1880s and the most recent sanctuary was built in the 1970s.
“Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been talking with presbytery leadership,” said Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for national disaster response. “We typically offer a church damage grant and deploy a team that can consult with presbytery and church leadership to develop both a short and long-term plan of recovery.”
“I wrote a grant Friday morning and by Friday afternoon the grant was already approved,” said Belden. “The church will have $5,000 for immediate emergency needs.”
Belden says the church pastor was out of town when the fire broke out. “Their pastor had not missed a Sunday in the pulpit in years. He had taken his wife on vacation. Members called and pleaded with him not to cut his vacation short because they deserved this time away.”
The small congregation has received numerous calls from sister churches in the area.
“Other Presbyterian churches in Little Rock have offered space in their buildings for the congregation to meet,” said Belden. “A church in eastern Arkansas offered hymnals. Other congregations are just wanting to help the best they can.”
Belden says the congregation is grateful for the support and expressed appreciation for what they’ve seen so far.
The pastor returns to the church on Wednesday and will meet with the congregation to determine next steps.
Those interested in making contributions to assist those impacted by disaster can click here.
If you prefer to mail a check (please write DR000180 on the memo line), you may send it to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
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