Members of fire-gutted church hold first Sunday service since di - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Members of fire-gutted church hold first Sunday service since disastrous blaze

Ryan Chapel holds its first Sunday church service since the May 3rd fire, which destroyed its church. Ryan Chapel holds its first Sunday church service since the May 3rd fire, which destroyed its church.
Sunday's service took place on church grounds next to the charrred church ruins. Sunday's service took place on church grounds next to the charrred church ruins.
Fire investigators have ruled out arson in the church fire. Fire investigators have ruled out arson in the church fire.
Neighborhing congregations have offered Ryan Chapel the opportunity to host their services at their churches. Neighborhing congregations have offered Ryan Chapel the opportunity to host their services at their churches.
DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) - Prayers and patients are in practice for the members of Ryan Chapel Methodist Church, which held its first Sunday service since a fire destroyed its building Sunday night, May 3rd. The sermon reflected and observed Mother's Day on the church grounds, feet away from the charred remains of their former chapel.

Pastor Charles Weeks is a sixth-generation member of Ryan Chapel. His ancestors actually built it nearly 150 years ago. He was out of town when the church burned down. Which he now believes was probably life-saving for him.

“There were a lot of things in there that had been built by family and friends. Things that are probably irreplaceable,” Pastor Weeks recalled. “I probably would have tried to have gone in and got them. And it wouldn't have been a good thing.”

Pastor Weeks and the congregation are trying to see the “good things” that will come out of this fire. He said this is the four time since the church was built for a fire to destroy the structure “for some reason or another.” Yet he and his flock have faith.

"The way that I look at it is—in this fact--from the ashes of disparity, with God's grace, we will rise to a greater height," he said with conviction. “I mean this happened for a reason. It's going to be a community builder. It's going to bring different denominations together as Christian family”

The evidence of that diversified Christian family could be seen during the morning service. They had members from other Methodist churches to attend—some from as far away as Nacogdoches County—and worshippers from other denominations including the Spanish-language church across the street: Primera Iglesia Bautista de Diboll. Pedro Avaviles—from Puerto Rico—became pastor there just in April.

“Sunday when we received a call from the policeman, he had said our building/church was on fire,” Pastor Avaviles shared. “When I rushed to the church, we saw that it was our neighbor's building, the Methodist church not ours. And we saw the fire consume everything, the whole building here.”

Pastor Avaviles said he and his congregation knew that had to help our Ryan Chapel anyway they could.

“We are one family in Christ. Anything that this church needs, we're going to be a resource for them,” Avaviles said. “We have very good facilities and our chapel will be available if they decide it is something they would like.”

Mary Hendry—a life-long member at Ryan Chapel—was not only glad to see Pastor Avaviles, but also very excited about the opportunity to bridge the culture and denominational gap between their churches that sit only across the street from each other.

“It's critical—you know—in a rural area. The community support is what makes us,' Hendry reflected on how Ryan Chapel will resurge. “We thought as we were planning this (having an outdoor service on the church grounds) that it would be cathartic for all of us to be here today.”

Despite the obvious physical reminder just next to their worshipping of the church ruins, their faith and focus is above move on to the next chapter in this small congregation's long-lasting history.

"We've all started the healing process. The insurance and the fire marshal have finished. And now we're looking forward,” Hendry said with assurance.

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