Congregation determined to flourish after fire destroys historic Nacogdoches County church

Congregation determined to flourish after fire destroys historic Nacogdoches County church

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Two weeks after a Nacogdoches County church was destroyed by fire, members of the congregation said they’ve found hope and renewed faith under the roof of their temporary place of worship.

Even as the Trawick Church Presbyterian Worship building burned in the early morning of Oct. 21, members refused to let their faith smolder.

“We said we’re going to keep going on. We’ll have church in the firehouse, we’ll make it happen,” said Rachel McQueen, church elder.

Members attend Sunday service at the old Linn Flat Volunteer Fire Department and community center located across the street from Trawick. The abandoned building has since been transformed with donated pews, hymnals, and wall decoration to reflect the fellowship the building now hosts.

“Immediately, people came to this building, it’s right across the street,” said Luke Russell, church elder. "It had been abandoned for several years.

“There was garbage and debris, the walls were crumbling in places. There were holes you could see through to the outside; it needed a lot of work. Still, people that day started trying to clean up and remove some of the debris.”

Nacogdoches County fire officials said a preliminary investigation indicated the fire started when high winds snapped an electric pole near the church which pulled the wires and weather head from the building. A neighbor also reported seeing a lightning strike near the church. (Source: Stefante Randall, KTRE News)
Nacogdoches County fire officials said a preliminary investigation indicated the fire started when high winds snapped an electric pole near the church which pulled the wires and weather head from the building. A neighbor also reported seeing a lightning strike near the church. (Source: Stefante Randall, KTRE News) (Source: KTRE News)

Russell said church members rooted through the wreckage to search for anything salvage. Most of the church’s possessions were destroyed in the flames, he said, but there were a few items, such as metal crosses.

Eight of the original columns from Trawick Church were also recovered intact and have found a place in the temporary building. Two-by-four planks were also fashioned into a cross, which is fixed above the pulpit, which was one of the many items donated to the church.

“That’s very close to an original cross that we had. We had a cross that was that same shape, and some people thought we had saved the original cross,” Russell explained. “We got it so it was reminiscent of what they had previously had. From a psychological standpoint, it’s important to have that continuity.”

A church in Nacogdoches County was deemed a total loss after a fire that officials say may be weather-related.
A church in Nacogdoches County was deemed a total loss after a fire that officials say may be weather-related. (Source: Lilbert-Looneyville Volunteer Fire Department)

The first Sunday worship after the fire was held in the firehouse’s kitchen area, McQueen recalled. She said it didn’t matter where church members met,

“They were just in awe of how we had worked together to put it all together,” McQueen said. “They were in awe. And last Sunday when they walked into the sanctuary, they were so happy and so pleased that they had a home. They had a church home, and they really felt home.”

Despite the efforts to make the church feel like home again, there were items that could not be salvaged, and memories that could not be rebuilt.

Decades of weddings, funerals, christenings, and holiday celebrations. Symbols of fellowship passed down that could never be replaced for the faithful who worshipped there.

“There were things there that were given by former members who are no longer with us, and those are things we won’t be able to get back," said Russell. “Those things were just things, but they comforted us, and reminded us of people who are longer there.”

The old Linn Flat VFD fire station and community center has found new life as the Trawick Presbyterian Church, even if it is temporary. The building was cleaned and decorated so members could worship on Sundays while their home church was rebuilt. (Source: Stefante Randall, KTRE News)
The old Linn Flat VFD fire station and community center has found new life as the Trawick Presbyterian Church, even if it is temporary. The building was cleaned and decorated so members could worship on Sundays while their home church was rebuilt. (Source: Stefante Randall, KTRE News) (Source: KTRE News)

Russell added that it was important to find a temporary location so quickly so celebrations, formal gatherings, and even the church’s daily activities could continue. That way, there was some sense of normality until their home church could be rebuilt.

According to the Lilbert-Looneyville Volunteer Fire Department, at about 4:59 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, several crews responded to the Trawick Presbyterian Church. At first, the caller reported a possible grass fire behind the church. At about 5:05 a.m., another person reported the church itself was on fire.

Fire officials said a preliminary investigation indicated the fire started when high winds snapped an electric pole near the church which pulled the wires and weather head from the building. A neighbor also reported seeing a lightning strike near the church.

For anyone who would like to make donations you may contact Sarah Vaught at 936-569-1370.

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