Church struck by arson re-opens sanctuary doors - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Church struck by arson re-opens sanctuary doors

By Morgan Chesky - bio | email

WILLS POINT, TX (KLTV) - It's been eight months since flames destroyed an east Texas church at the hands of arsonists. Russell Memorial United Methodist Church was the eighth church whose sanctuary was set ablaze.

Today church members returned to a brand new sanctuary. A sunny Sunday morning captured a brand new steeple from streets away, sitting atop a building filled in celebration.

"It's breathtaking, it's beautiful," said Linda Greenwald,"I wanted to wear my very best today."

"The crowd that showed up today was just astounding," added member Weldon George.

"Isn't it a wonderful day just look around you what can you say but thank you God," said Pastor Billy Watson,"God has seen us through so much."

The fire of February fourth remains fresh in the minds of members.

"Saw those flames and thought this is horrible we'll never be able to rebuild this church," said George. 

Flames took their sanctuary, but a foundation remained through the ashes.

"The building is not the church," said Bean Hesse. Sunday's sermon focused on the future not without a painful past.

"The reason it feels so good is that it felt so bad on February 4th," said Watson.

Prayers were even offered to those believed responsible, Jason Bourque and Daniel Mcalister.

"Friends we can't know what was going on in their hearts to lead them to do the things that they did," said Watson."But we can pray that god will break through their hearts."

Burned remnants remain part of the church from metal door plates to a tarnished cross. Sun shone brightly through new stained glass, signifying the new building and new attitude of the church.

"This church is stronger today than it was before the fire," said Watson.

"God gave us a beautiful day and we've got a beautiful sanctuary filled with beautiful people," beamed member Anita McKinney.

Church members tell us the fire hasn't only brought them a new sanctuary but new members as well. Their Sunday morning worship attendance is continuing to grow.

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