Village Baptist Church Fire
Joe Aiello rescuing cross
Fire at Village, January 8, 2000. Capt. Joe Aiello rescued the Cross.
Photo by Tom Carter. ( c ) 2000   Reprinted with permission.


The telephone rang at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 8.  It was Steve Harris, who had been out walking his dog.  Steve said the church was on fire.  Linda and I rushed to the scene.  The police had Mitchellville Road blocked off, but after I identified myself as the pastor of Village Baptist Church, they let us through.  The church really was on fire.  Flames were leaping from the front of the building and smoke was billowing up to the sky.  The steeple already had fallen.  The church parking lot was filled with firefighters and pieces of equipment.  We watched from the road with shock and disbelief as they battled the blaze.  Robbie Proffitt was standing in her backyard looking over the fence.  I asked her to call Gracen Joiner and Pete Parreco, two of our trustees—they would want to know.  Soon many Villagers started appearing.  Ed Dellinger and Michelle Wagner took pictures.  It was a day we will never forget.

The next day, Sunday, January 9, we gathered for worship at 8:45 a.m. and again at 11:00 a.m. on the parking lot in front of the devastated building.  The entire front of the church was gone, along with about half the roof on the rest of the building.  The front lawn was littered with piles of rubble and some charred metal filing cabinets.  All of the contents of my office was destroyed.  Some of our church files had been saved from Gloria Newton’s office, but she lost almost everything too.  We prayed before our burned out building, then we drove over to the Pointer Ridge Fire Hall for worship.  The spirit of the people was incredible.  To be sure, there were lots of tears, but there were also lots of smiles and warm embraces.  We would get through this together, and we did.  With God’s help, we would find a way to go on, and we are doing just that.  We worshipped at the Fire Hall the following Sunday, and then began to worship at the Bowie Alliance Church building on January 23.  That generous congregation offered us the use of their building for our two worship services, Sunday School, and a nursery on Sunday mornings.  They even altered their own schedule so that both churches could use their building at the same time!  How grateful we are for these Christian friends, and for so many other churches and individuals who have offered to help!

The United Parish Church has opened their sanctuary for our adult choir to rehearse on Thursday nights, as well as providing counseling space for Rose Schrott during the week.  The A.A. group that met in our building is now meeting at St. Edward’s Catholic Church.  The C.D.A. Thursday and Saturday night groups are meeting at the Bowie Alliance Church.  One of the Girl Scout groups is now meeting at All Saints Lutheran Church.  Cresthill Baptist Church has offered us the use of their baptistry for a baptismal service on a Sunday afternoon.  Riva Trace Baptist Church in Annapolis has given us some hymnals.  The Maryland Bible Society has offered to replace our pew Bibles.  A generous donor in the community has offered to give us a piano.  Larry Grier of IKON Business Solutions arranged for his company to donate a used copier and a fax machine to our church.  Another person in the community donated a printer.  Chandra Knabel’s company donated two used computers.  Although Gloria and I are operating the church offices out of our homes right now, we hope to move to temporary office space soon.  We have received donations to our Building Fund from former members, other churches, fraternal organizations, people in the community, and people from beyond the community who heard about our plight.  Most of all, many, many people have told us they are praying for us.  Already we are seeing much good come out of this tragedy.  Praise God!

Where do we go from here?  We will continue to worship and have Sunday School at the Bowie Alliance Church, 1925 Mitchellville Road.  The time for our early service has been moved up to 8:30 a.m., Sunday School is at the usual time of 9:45 a.m., and our second service has been moved back to 11:15 a.m.  Most of our meetings during the week will be in members’ homes.  We hope to install a modular office unit on our church parking lot, if and as soon as we can get all the permits.  Gracen Joiner is in regular contact with the insurance company, and we have formed a building subcommittee of the Long Range Planning Committee, comprised of Gracen Joiner, Pete Parreco, Neal Bruce, Thad Ciprich, Dan Estrada, and Fred Terrell.  Of course, everyone will have opportunities to give input and to be involved in plans for rebuilding, but this subcommittee will coordinate our efforts.  We have been told that it usually takes at least a year to rebuild.  Also, we have been told that after a devastating fire, virtually no church rebuilds exactly as it was.  It would be foolish for us to use plans from twenty-plus years ago to build a church for the future.  Obviously, we will make some changes, and improvements.  Everyone recognizes we need a bigger foyer, a kitchen next to the Fellowship Hall, more room for dinners, more classroom space, etc.  Any additions or significant changes likely will not be covered by the insurance settlement, so donations to our building fund are gratefully accepted.  I truly believe this time of rebuilding can be a blessing in the life of our church.  Please continue to support Village with your time, talents, gifts, and prayers.

On September 17, 2000, many of our neighbor churches sponsored a concert at Allen Pond to help rebuild the Village Baptist Church building.  Our thanks to these churches for their sharing of Christian spirit!

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