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Her tears evidence spiritual memories after fire claims church sanctuary

SUGAR HILL, Ga. (BP)–A week after her church sanctuary had burned to the ground, Mary Ann Mobley still couldn’t believe her eyes.

Standing in the parking lot for the first time since the furnace fire that destroyed the Sugar Hill (Ga.) Baptist Church’s structure, she struggled to hold back the tears as the flood of memories overcame her emotions. The tears eventually won.

Sobbing uncontrollably as she snapped a few pictures with her camera, Mobley shared a series of flashbacks of her spiritual journey at the Gwinnett County church where she had been a member for 30 of her 35 years.

“I was saved at this church. I was baptized at this church. I was a member of GAs and taught Sunday school here. I still can’t believe it’s all gone,” she said.

Then she was quiet, staring at the blackened metal support beams resembling gigantic pieces of twisted licorice hovering over the charred structure. There was no floor, no pews, no carpeting. Just a large hole in the ground where the furnace fire engulfed the church around 5 p.m. on Jan. 15.

The congregation had recently sold the facility to an independent evangelical Korean congregation, which had been using the building for only two weeks. The former Sugar Hill congregation was meeting in the building on Sunday afternoon as finishing touches were being readied at their new location less than a mile away.

Ken Allen, Sugar Hill’s interim pastor for only three weeks, was equally stunned by the spectacular fire that received extensive live coverage on all the major television stations in Atlanta.

“I’ve been living here for 20 years, and this is a very big hurt for the church as well as the community. But one thing I can say is that both we and the Korean congregation have been offered overwhelming support from the Georgia Baptist Convention, the association and churches throughout the faith community.

“The expression of love has been unbelievable.”

The building was purchased for $1 million by the Korean congregation, which had insured it for about $1.6 million. Replacement value has since been estimated at $2 million.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CHURCH MEMORIES and FINISHING TOUCHES.

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  • Joe Westbury