DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) - May of 2015 the congregation of Ryan Chapel Methodist church, one of the oldest of its denominations in East Texas, burned to the ground losing everything.
More than a year later their doors have been reopened with construction coming to an end. They held a special re-dedication ceremony that the churches pastor said could not have happened soon enough.
"Everyone is super excited about being in a new facility, and moving forward to get started in a new chapter in a new church," Charles Weeks said. "This is a new beginning. God has a plan for us, and this is just like a new birth, new life and we will treat it as such."
For those that have been closely connected to the rebuilding process, they said it's hard to believe this day has come.
"It was surreal at the moment, and now that we are back its surreal in a different way," said Mary Hendry, chairman of the churches board. "This has been our home for generations, it's a deeper homecoming than many may realize."
The historic church has ties dating back six generations, where Pastor Weeks said his ancestors began their journey as a congregation of Ryan Chapel United Methodist Church.
"I've gone to church here all my life, sixth generation member, ancestors were the founders of this church. It was like losing part of the family when it burned," Weeks said. "Someone said, 'Are you going to rebuild?' and I said if we didn't the cemetery would be plowed up because they would be rolling over in their grave."
Rebuilding in the same location is exactly what they did. It may have taken more than a year, but the congregation said the wait has been more than worth it.
"It's a landmark, been here in this place for no telling how many years, and it was a sad day when it went down. There were many a tears shed," said Wayne Hodges the churches long-time groundskeeper. "I am thankful to the good Lord it's been rebuilt; the Lord is going to bless those that worked so hard to see this through."
A historical marker sits outside one of the churches entrances, and this is believed to be one of the few things salvaged from the fire which was deemed an electrical issue. Now as they move forward in their new chapter they reflect on what this journey has taught their church.
"It taught us to always remember that the church is not the building, the church is the people," Hendry said. "We will be stronger for this."
Church services are held every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., and leaders of the church welcome the community to celebrate this new rebirth of a historical staple in East Texas.