Crothersville church opens doors to congregation that lost building to a fire



Seeing a pulpit, rows of chairs, stained glass windows, Bibles and music and sound equipment, it looks like a church.

Hearing verses from the Bible, upbeat songs and prayers to God, it sounds like a church.

Members of Lighthouse Tabernacle may be meeting in a different location after the church at 500 N. Armstrong St., Crothersville, was destroyed by a fire June 3.

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But they are OK with that because they are grateful First Baptist Church of Crothersville had a space for them to use until they can rebuild.

Ever since the Sunday after the fire, they have had a place for church services and Sunday school classes.

Pastor Jerry Miles said a church in Brownstown and two in Seymour also had offered to help.

“Every church in Crothersville reached out to me,” Miles said. “We were going to have to exchange their services and go into their sanctuaries, so this is the perfect fit. When it got right down to where the rubber meets the road, to hear people say, ‘I’ll come help you,’ these people were really sincere. We’re just thankful. They have been so kind.”

First Baptist Church Pastor Jeff Mathews said he and his family got ready early after hearing about the fire, left their North Vernon home and headed straight to Lighthouse Tabernacle.

Once he arrived, he knew they wouldn’t be able to have Sunday services, so he told Miles his church members were welcome to worship with his congregation.

Mathews then asked his own church members about letting Lighthouse Tabernacle use the former church building across the street.

“Our church voted 100 percent for it to do it,” Mathews said.

After the service, Mathews and two of his deacons shared the news with Miles.

“No strings attached,” Mathews said he told Miles. “We just want to be able to bless you and be able to do it and rebuild and figure out the next steps. Doctrinely, we might be a little bit different on a couple of things, but we both love Jesus, and we want to see people come into a relationship with him, so we wanted to support them and be a part of that.”

On June 6, Miles and his congregation met in the fellowship hall to discuss using the Baptist church’s facility, and they agreed to move forward.

“They were elated that we accepted,” Miles said.

People from both churches them came together to clean up the church building at Howard and Jackson streets to get it ready for services.

“It’s a God thing,” Miles said of what made it all happen. “The Lord moved on them. That’s what it was.”

Mathews agreed that God was in control.

“We had the facility that they could use, and I believe God just orchestrated it to work out right,” he said. “I thought it was a great thing not only for our church and their church to be able to help each other, but it’s a friendship. It’s also for our community to actually see that we’re not against each other and we’re working together, so that was a big thing. That’s where ministry starts.”

The state fire marshal assessed the burnt building and determined the cause to be electrical. The damage estimate is more than $2.5 million.

Miles said a building assessor spent a few hours one day at the church and soon should present a report.

“That’s our launching pad,” Miles said. “Once he does that and then they start the process, we can start the process. I’ll bring men in that can show me plans. We’ve got in our mind kind of what we want, but yet on the other hand, once we make the decisions, we don’t want to have to go back.”

The church had a wood frame and a flat ceiling, and Miles said the new one will have steel as the basic structure and a more economical roof.

The old building had a seating capacity of 450, and Miles wants that to remain the same. He said the sanctuary will be 13,800 square feet.

“We don’t want to build it the same, but we want to build it as big,” he said. “We don’t want the people to walk into something less than what they had, so we want to do the best we can with what we get.”

After watching members of his church come together the day of the fire to provide food and drinks to firefighters, Miles said he wasn’t surprised when he saw them recently organizing a car wash and a bake sale with proceeds going into the rebuilding fund.

Several people have made generous donations to help the church, and Miles said he is sending a thank-you letter to each of them.

Some people also have donated equipment, food and other needs for the church.

“There have just been a lot of people that have been so kind,” Miles said.

Eddie Collman of Uniontown said he attended Lighthouse Tabernacle when he was younger, then left for a while and now has been back for 15 years.

At one time, the church had a Christian school that he attended, so the news of the fire was tough to hear.

“It hurts. It’s like somebody to lose their home,” he said. “It’s like my whole life growing up, I was there, and it’s all gone.”

Once he arrived at the church the day of the fire, he was happy to see his fellow members spring into action and maintain a positive attitude.

“If something like that happens, we all pull together,” he said. “What surprised me is the people in the community that really pulled together to help. That also really was amazing.”

Judy Mills of Austin has only been a member since January, but she said the news broke her heart, too.

She chose to visit the church later in the day when the situation wasn’t as hectic.

“Their attitude was, ‘Hey, we’re going to make it through this. This is just a new beginning,'” she said. “It was just upbeat and praising God that nobody was there to be injured inside. We just thank the Lord.”

Collman and Mills were as excited as the other members when they heard about the Baptist church offering their facility.

“Like Brother Miles said, it was like the hand of God was moved on their hearts and lets you know that it isn’t every church against every church,” Collman said. “It’s more like a community thing where all of the churches pull together to help out. Even though they may not socialize with one another on their activities and stuff, they pulled together as a community. It was overwhelming and really exciting. It’s a blessing.”

Mills was happy to have a place to worship.

“From one Sunday losing our facility to be able to worship and then the next Sunday having the space, it was just joyful. We didn’t miss a beat,” she said.

“I think it speaks of just loving God or the goodness of God,” Mills said. “People feel some compassion they have in their hearts because all people are good. I’ve been in smaller communities and larger communities, but this one, it’s just the feeling of it. It’s just everybody has come together in the community, people that are strangers and never knew of the church as far as attending. I think it just speaks of humanity.”

Both look forward to the day they can walk into the rebuilt church.

“It will be exciting, really, just trying to think how we’re going to do it,” Collman said.

“I tell you, the new church, it’s going to be great,” Mills said. “It’s going to be even greater.”

Miles awaits that day, too.

“Just like I told the people, I said, ‘Stay up and stay with me. We will get through this together as long as you keep upbeat in your mind and spirit,'” he said. “As long as we keep that incentive that we’re going to do it one way or another, it will happen. It’s just a matter of a little bit of time from A to B. The Lord will provide some things. He already has. We’re just amazed.”

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To contribute to Lighthouse Tabernacle’s rebuilding fund, mail a check to Lighthouse Tabernacle, 500 N. Armstrong St., Crothersville, IN 47229. Donations are tax-deductible.


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