One year after devastating fire, Mt. Zion AME Church to rebuild

One year after devastating fire, Mt. Zion AME Church to rebuild
Building of the former church was torn down sometime in September 2015 (Source: Live 5)
Building of the former church was torn down sometime in September 2015 (Source: Live 5)
Mt. Zion AME Church July 1, 2015 (Source: Live 5)
Mt. Zion AME Church July 1, 2015 (Source: Live 5)
Mt. Zion AME Church July 1, 2015 (Source: Live 5)
Mt. Zion AME Church July 1, 2015 (Source: Live 5)
June 30, 2015 (Source: Carter Jones)
June 30, 2015 (Source: Carter Jones)

GREELEYVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The congregation at a Greeleyville church is hopeful for the future one year after fire destroyed their church for a second time in history.

Officials say the fire at Mt. Zion AME Church broke out at about 8:30 p.m. June 30 and took more than two hours to put out; the blaze was classified as a three-alarm fire and required about 45 firefighters to bring it under control.

The fire came during a tense time following the Mother Emanuel AME tragedy in Downtown Charleston.

It also happened during a time of rash arson fires at predominant black churches in the South.

This was the second fire in the church's history since 1995, when the KKK set fire to the old building.

Now the congregation is looking towards the future.

"I just see it," said Reverend John Taylor, Pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church. "I just envision it, and I see it like it's going to be."

It's a been a long twelve months for Rev. Taylor and his congregation.

Investigators say based upon debris, witness statements, and reports of a lightning strike in the area, the cause of the fire was natural.

"I was here the night when it burned," said church trustee Katherine M. Walker. "It was very emotional for me. So, it's still emotional when you think about it."

In September the building of the church was torn down, two months after that fire.

"We kind of got tired riding by and seeing it there," Taylor said. "We made an effort to get it down, and when we did we saw how beautiful this landscape looked. So that's a better picture than looking at what was there."

Currently, the congregation worships every Sunday at 10 a.m. the Garden of Prayer along Highway 52 in St. Stephen.

"Even though we do miss our home here, we haven't felt lost at all," Taylor said.

"We've grown closer to together spiritually and friendship wise," said pastor pro tem Andrew Newman.

"Everyone has offered to us kind of what we needed," Taylor added.

Taylor said the response from the community and across the country has helped them through this difficult time.

"There have been letters of support, cards sent to our children, there have been robes sent for me to wear, calls," Taylor added. "All of it mattered."

"I would just like to thank all of the people who opened their hands and their hearts to help us when we were in need," said Rosabel Conyers, a stewardess. "They have done it for a second time, and didn't hesitate to do it."

Taylor hopes to break ground on the church in the very near future.

Designs are still in the works for the new building, but he said there's one thing from the old building that will hopefully grace the new church.

"There was a cross baring on the front," he said. "That's one emblem we hope to try and keep on the front of it, that cross that was there. That's our vision."

Until then, Taylor said the faith and hope in his congregation remains strong for the new future of the church.

"I've seen the hand of the Lord moving pretty much every step of the way," he added.

"When things happen it knocks you down," Conyers said. "It's up to us whether we get back up again, and we can only get back up if we stick together."

Authorities say the 8,000 square foot church was a total loss. At this time Taylor said he's not sure how much it will cost to rebuild the church.

A fund was set up at First Citizens Bank to help the congregation. That fund is still open. Anyone wishing to donate can make donations out to "Mt. Zion AME Church Building Fund".

They are hoping once construction starts on the new building there won't be any delays.

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