From the ashes; First Church of God set to reopen after 2021 fire

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 7:35 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NAPPANEE, Ind. (WNDU) - The First Church of God in Nappanee is set to open its doors for the first time since a devastating fire nearly a year and a half ago.

WNDU first reported this story on Sept. 26, 2021, as a fire that started in the chimney of First Church of God spread to the rest of the building during Sunday School.

But as churchgoers often say, “when God closes a door, he opens a window.”

Pastor Sam Bennett recalls his initial reaction after evacuating the church and turning around to see it in flames.

“First thought that came to mind was, oh no, what are we going to do,” says First Church of God Pastor Sam Bennett. “The building was going up in flames. Where are we going to worship? How are we going to continue to function as the church? And it dawned on me, and I’ve realized before, and since that, the church is more than a building; it’s the people.”

People in the community rallied to Pastor Bennett’s side over the last year and a half, and examples of goodwill have been plentiful. Through a collaboration between the city of Nappanee and The Center for Family Christian Development, they offered to hold church services at the center.

“Community businesses throughout the Nappanee area made donations,” Bennett added. “They gave us love and support, anything they could do. The high school coach said, hey, my team will come out and pick up stuff if you need. Every avenue, the community has been supportive, and we are so thankful for that.”

Pastor Bennett explained that “the church” refers to the parishioners, and the building is where those people worship together.

“This actually has made the church stronger,” Bennett said. “You know, some people identify the church as a building and a place, which there is importance in that. However, we’ve had church at The Center for the last year and a half.”

The new building was designed with the community in mind, with adult and children learning spaces, a kitchen, and a basketball court, all off the main hallway.

“We designed the new building as a central hub with a foyer where people can gather, and have a conversation, and encourage one another, greet one another,” Bennett explained.

Pastor Bennett says his church is “here for the community as they have been for us.”

“I think we’re stronger because of the challenges that we’ve gone through, and that’s often how God works,” Bennett concluded. “When difficult times come, the people of God step up and draw together and support one another.”

The First Church of God set a goal when they started rebuilding and said they wanted to return for Easter.

They are happy to announce that they plan on giving their first service since the fire on April 2, Palm Sunday, the week before Easter.

The First Church of God will also have a community service on April 30 at 4 p.m. They’re inviting local police, fire, business owners, and community members to come and celebrate the church’s reopening.

The total cost for the rebuild is around $3.4 million.

Pastor Bennett tells 16 News Now that the demolition cost around $226,000, with the rebuild hovering around $3.2 million.

Bennett also noted that insurance covered the cost of the rebuild.

DJ Construction led the rebuilding efforts at First Church of God.