Members plan to rebuild Beaumont Church after devastating fire

Decades of history went up in smoke last Monday when the building, which opened in the 1960s, burned down.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Nearly a week after the Central City Baptist Church burned down, church and community members gathered to worship beside the remains of their building.

Decades of history went up in smoke last Monday when the building, which opened in the 1960s, burned down.

But lifelong church members are not giving up and gathered to worship Sunday morning in a tent next to the burnt remains of their church.

The church had closed during the pandemic, but members had planned to reopen before the fire happened.

Church leaders say the building is secure and will be rebuilt.

At a Sunday evening prayer meeting nearly a week later, it wasn’t about brick walls and wooden pews, it was about a community coming together and continuing to worship, for a church is more than just a building.

If the building is destroyed, the church can continue.

“I started here in 1949,” Richard Hernandez said, “when there was a tent and we went from a tent to what was the wooden building right here where we’re standing. It burned down in 59.”

Six decades later, another fire displaced the congregation, into a tent. But that didn’t stop them from coming together to pray.

“It would have been very easy to quit, to go somewhere with a newer facility, fewer distractions,” said Dr. Jim Turnbo, executive director of the Golden Triangle Baptist Network. “But we wanted our community, our team to be encouraged, focused and moving forward.”

As they worshiped across the street, the remnants of the disaster hung above them in the background.

“I got married in this church,” Judy Gibbs told 12News. “My children grew up in this church.”

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Although the church is not defined by the building, the building has held many memories.

“There are a lot of precious memories, a lot of them and a lot of souls that have been saved here,” Hernandez said.

For Hernandez and Gibbs, who have each been members of the church for more than 50 years, it’s another, albeit painful, chapter in the church’s rich history.

“We have our memories. They can’t take it away from us,” Gibbs says, “And who knows, we might just rebuild ourselves a little old church and the Lord is in charge, so I don’t really know.”

What they know is that the church will continue.

“The church building is gone right now,” Dr. Turnbo said, “but the church is the people and that fellowship is still there.”

Once they’ve settled in with the insurance, they plan to tear down the burnt-out church and rebuild it from scratch, continuing the church’s legacy in the same place it began more than 100 years ago. 6 decades, according to Dr. Turnbo.

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