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Church burned by arson thanks Baptists for aiding in rebuilding

ALICEVILLE, Ala. (BP)–A little more than five months after arsonists burned Dancy First Baptist Church near Aliceville, Ala., in the second string of church fires across the state, an overflow crowd gathered at the church to celebrate the rededication of its recently finished sanctuary.

With assistance from countless individuals, churches and companies around the country, Dancy First Baptist was able to restore the sanctuary, expand the fellowship hall and add classroom space to meet the needs of church members, who had been meeting in a local funeral home chapel since the church was damaged.

“It feels so good that God placed [the desire] on the hearts of people across the country to help us,” Walter Hawkins Jr., pastor of the predominantly African American congregation, said. “It shows that we are one church regardless of where we are and who we are.”

To demonstrate the church’s appreciation, the rededication service featured a worship time along with numerous presentations and speakers who had made donations and worked with the church during its time of need.

One of the speakers was Gary Farley, director of missions for Pickens Baptist Association, who met regularly with Hawkins during the recovery period and coordinated Alabama Baptist efforts to help the church.

Having worked with Dancy First Baptist through numerous missions projects over the past several years, Farley and many of his associational churches had already developed strong bonds with the congregation which made them better prepared to meet the church’s needs quickly after the fire.

“Because of the relationships we had prior to the fires, we became the point person for Alabama Baptists who wanted to help the burned churches,” Farley said. “We had no notion that anyone would ever burn the church, but by being faithful in the little things, the stage was set for this larger project. It’s been amazing to see the love and the outpouring of help in responding to Dancy and the other churches.”

Farley noted that out of a tragic situation much good has come among various churches and people of different races.

“The fire created a context in which we had to put loving our neighbor in practice,” he said. “The offers of work crews, resources and contributions have been overwhelming.”

First Baptist Church in Vincent brought a communion set to replace what had been lost in the fire and gave $3,000, Farley said. Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham helped paint the auditorium and brought a busload of people to the rededication service.

Jim Moebes, pastor of Mountain Brook Baptist, said the church also formed a partnership with Dancy First Baptist and made about seven trips to assist the church.

“They were meeting in a funeral home, their crowds were about half of what they normally were and their offerings were down severely,” he said. “We did not want them to be financially strapped and under a lot of pressure because of this tragedy. That building was finished in 1999, and they had some serious monthly mortgage payments. I felt we could help relieve the stress of a heavy monthly mortgage, so we paid their mortgage payments for the rest of 2006.”

The church also gave Dancy two pianos and various pieces of furniture for the new building.

“We had 37 people there for the rededication service,” Moebes said. “It was a real exciting time to be with our friends with whom we had worked so hard and celebrate with them a new beginning.

“I think the more people who are involved in hands-on missions in places like Dancy, the more they will be sensitive to and excited about missions all over the world,” he added.
Sondra Washington writes for The Alabama Baptist, online at www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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