Burned Church Congregation Moves Forward

Ashby Baptist Church members are now worshiping in temporary buildings.
Ashby Baptist Church members are now worshiping in temporary buildings.

The members of Ashby Baptist Church never stopped singing and praying, but this Sunday marked the first time they held service on the land where their church once stood.

Jim Parker, pastor of Ashby Baptist Church says, "This really starts the process of our rebuilding efforts, so it's quite a milestone for us here." Even in temporary shelter, members still found comfort being back on their turf.

Deacon, Bobby Latimer, says, "Our church is not the building. Our church is the people inside and our worship services are going on here this morning back on home ground again since the fire."

From day one, church members say they forgave the men who burned their church down. Only this Sunday, their prayers had names and faces.

Parker adds, "There were people who knew them who're members of our church and that sort of thing. So, it does bring it close to home and we just regret it for these young boys and their families."

In his sermon Sunday morning, Parker asked the congregation, "What are we going to do?" Parker added, "We're going to forgive them. We're going to work to that point and we're going to do that as quickly and as productively as we can."

Naturally, there's a long of history of wonderful memories for this congregation. Ashby Baptist Church was first formed in 1875 and the building the arsonists burned down was constructed in 1919. Their plan is to simply start over and, in time, rebuild on the same site. Ashby Baptist was the first church targeted by the arsonists. It burned to the ground in early February.

The three suspects arrested for the fires spent this Sunday in the Shelby County jail. They're facing federal conspiracy and arson charges. 19-year-olds Ben Moseley and Russell DeBusk, and 20-year-old Matthew Cloyd, are awaiting a bond hearing this Wednesday.

Reporter: Theo Travers