Congregants and honored guests of Mooreville United Methodist Church gathered to consecrate a brand-new sanctuary Sunday, Aug. 29. This long-time-in-the-making triumph began in tragedy more than two and a half years ago.
On Feb. 7, 2019, the church’s 108-year-old sanctuary erupted in flames and burned to the ground due to an electrical issue. All that was left of the historic sanctuary was an angel, it’s Historical Marker and ash. Still, the blaze did not leave the members and guests of the Falls County church homeless as the Fire and Rescue teams who valiantly responded to the fire were able to save the church’s Fellowship Hall. During the long two-and-a-half-year period of building—made longer than planned by COVID-19—worship happened in the Fellowship Hall.
|Leah Hidde-Gregory and Kevin Diggs were among the more than 200 who were all smiles at the Mooreville consecration service.|
To help cover some of the considerable rebuilding expenses that were beyond what the church’s insurance covered, the 2019 Central Texas Conference Annual Conference designated its Annual Conference Offering to help support the rebuilding efforts. About halfway through the 2019 meeting in Arlington, TX, Rev. Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory—the Central District Superintendent at the time— called on the clergy and lay members to help their brothers and sisters by donating to the conference offering. A few moments later, The Spirit moved through the conference and one-by-one, multiple clergy and lay members came to the mic and pledged to donate, raising thousands of dollars. Due to this outpouring of connectional kindness, along with community fundraisers and the generosity of many others from inside and outside the Chilton, Texas city limits, Mooreville UMC was able to raise more than one million dollars to rebuild their sanctuary.
“There were several small churches in this community who gave to us that needed that money for their own budgets, but they gave for the cause of Jesus Christ. To everyone who gave, Thank you,” acknowledged current Mooreville pastor Rev. Kevin Diggs.
Joining Rev. Diggs and the more than 200 joyous Mooreville UMC congregants and community members for this momentous Consecration Sunday, were Bishop Mike Lowry, former Mooreville pastors, Rev. Dennis Rejcek (who was serving the church at the time of the fire) and Rev. Cecil Reed, former and current District Superintendents, Rev. Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory and Rev. Beverly Connelly, Rev. Brian Longley and some of the men who fought the fire from the Golinda and Beverly Hills Fire & Rescue teams. All were elated to gather in the stunning, newly built sanctuary.
In a special presentation, Rev. Dennis Rejcek gifted Bishop Lowry with a hand carved pen made from wood from the rubble of the destroyed 108-year-old church, “Because I know you had just as much paperwork as I did,” Rejcek joked with Bishop Lowry.
“Let me simply convey to you: on behalf of the entire Central Texas Conference, how proud we are of you as a congregation, how thankful we are for the first responders and to others who have come to help renew. This scripture rings through my head, “Well done, well done, well done, thou good and faithful servants.” Thank you,” Bishop Lowry expressed.
Congregants gathered after the service to fellowship and celebrate with each other over BBQ, all the fixings and dessert. There was laughter and talking of old memories, as well as children running around.
Hanging in the Fellowship Hall where the Mooreville church worshipped for the past 30 months is the image of a phoenix - a mythological, immortal bird that bursts into flames every so often, only to be reborn into something new. On many shirts worn throughout the two-and-a-half-years waiting and building process, the bird is printed with the words, “Rising from the Ashes.”
It’s safe to say that Mooreville United Methodist Church has risen from the ashes indeed, and is eager to continue its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.