State fire marshals investigating Livingston church fire

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - A Livingston congregation is without a building following a fire early Wednesday which gutted the church.

Allie Gilkey walked around the ruins in disbelief of what remains of the church she grew up in. "When I was in grade school we always came to St. Luke to wrap the maypole," said Gilkey.

St. Luke United Methodist Church was the first brick African- American church in Livingston. 35 years later a fire has now destroyed the landmark, sparing but a few Bibles and hymnals.

"I came and it was engulfed. We weren't able to salvage anything," said Gilkey. "It's totaled."

Members watched as Livingston fire officials arrived at the blazing sanctuary just after one a.m. Wednesday. Detective Ken Bohnert says the flames sparked in the kitchen area.

"There was a fire visible in the rear part of the church building," said Bohnert.

Gilkey hasn't left the church all day. For her, letting go of lifelong memories is the hardest part.

"We always had the Easter program here. All the churches in the community came to the church for the Easter program," said Gilkey.

Already, there's been an outpouring of concern from the community. "People pass by in the community. They've called, but we are not allowed to go in or anything," said Gilkey.

All the doors of the church were locked at the time and nothing suggests a break in.

"We've notified the state fire marshal's office. They have arson investigators en route to survey the scene and determine the cause of the fire," said Bohnert.

While the church is a total loss, St. Luke's congregation is planning a worship service in the parking lot this Sunday.

"We'll be right here, tent or no tent, we just got to keep kicking," said Gilkey.

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