On Dec. 26, 2004, a fire in the sanctuary of my church, First Presbyterian of Gallatin, came within minutes of destroying the venerable structure.
It seemed then, and seems now, that grace kept if from ruin. At the time, some believed we’d patch it up and be back in within 90 to 120 days, despite the loss of our organ, and significant damage to much of the building. Fortunately, the congregation decided to look ahead and not just repair the damage but renovate the sanctuary to last another century plus.
On Dec. 24, we held our first services back in the sanctuary. The pews were in, although most lacked cushions. Carpet has yet to be installed on the aisles, the sound system isn’t working, the single stained glass window that was destroyed is several months away from completion, and a new organ takes at least 2 years to build. But the santurary is usable, with a new coffered ceiling, a lovely shade of yellow on the walls , far better acoustics and a spirit of community that can be lost in a church unchallenged. In the meantime, we have bought a building nearby on the square and use it for youth programs and a Saturday night service that is proving popular.
It was a great present for all of us, after a year of holding services next door at the United Methodist Church’s fellowship hall, but as our pastor says, the church is the people, not the building. This past year has proved it.