Pastor Jerry Miles normally wouldn’t like seeing demolition equipment around his church.
But this is an exception.
On the morning of June 3, 2018, he stood out front of Lighthouse Tabernacle, 500 N. Armstrong St., Crothersville, and watched as firefighters from six departments battled a blaze that started in the rear of the building where he had preached since 1988.
Three days later, members had their first service at the former location of First Baptist Church of Crothersville at Howard and Jackson streets. They have remained there ever since.
On Aug. 6 of this year, Miles stood outside his church and watched as a piece of heavy machinery began demolition of the brick building.
“Today was a great day. We’ve been waiting on this to start,” he said late that afternoon.
“We announced that we were going to start maybe Monday on Sunday night, and I thought they were going to tear the building down,” he said, laughing, about his congregation’s reaction to the news. “They were all happy. They are just elated.”
So why did it take more than three years to demolish the building and start the rebuilding process? Miles said it involved negotiations with the insurance company that wound up getting the court involved.
“Hopefully, us doing something will show them our good work, what we’re trying to do,” he said. “In other words, we’re not just sitting on the money they gave us. We’re trying to rebuild.”
The Mills brothers doing the demolition told Miles that should take about a week and a half.
The next step will be to start with a new foundation and raise it 8 inches.
“We had a little problem with water running,” Miles said. “(The building) kind of sat in a hole. When they built it, they didn’t do it right. I had to put drains in front of the building where the water would run off (U.S.) 31 right into the front door. A couple of times, it came into the sanctuary and flooded.”
Then the footers will be put in place to prepare for the placement of a steel shell.
“We’ll have a building sitting there probably I’d say the middle of October,” Miles said. “Just the shell. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be the finished product, but we’ll have something there that you can look at when you drive by. Once they get that steel up, you know how quickly it goes after that.”
The exterior of the building will be brick on the front and also feature new material that looks like stucco that Miles said is much more durable and paintable. There also will be pillars in front and on the right side.
“It’s going to be very, very nice,” Miles said. “Once we are able to do what we want to do, I’m sure the entire town and Jackson County will be very proud of it.”
Sproles Corp. of New Castle was hired as the contractor because it has built churches since 1993. Miles has been working with company representative John Sproles.
“We’ve looked at some of the things that they’ve done. They do excellent work, so I’m excited,” Miles said. “The man that’s doing it, the son of the one that originally started the business, is an excellent, fine young man. He’s just very, very easy to work with. He’s trying to save us money in every way he can. He sees our circumstance and our problems, so that helps, too. He’s very, very helpful.”
While the new church is being built, Miles said the congregation plans to move from its current gathering place to the fellowship hall behind the church.
“God has helped us, and we’ve had a building because of the good people at the Baptist church,” he said. “We’re just getting a little too big for that area now, so we’re in the process of redoing the fellowship hall in the back that seats 250 in there.”
Work has been done on the walls and bathrooms and a platform was built, and Miles hopes to be using that facility by the end of this month or early September.
“This COVID thing stifled us for a little while, but now, we’re starting to see growth, and we don’t want to stifle that by fear of being so tight,” he said. “(The Baptist church has) been very kind to us, but we just need a little bit more space so we can do something on our own. We’re going to have room to do whatever we need to do.”
Being back on their church property should raise the morale of the people until the new building is completed, Miles said.
“When they drive in that driveway, they are going to see progress every day. That’s the good thing,” he said. “We’re going to be right there onsite, so it will make it nicer.”
Services will continue at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays.
Since the fire, church members have conducted public and internal fundraisers to raise money to rebuild. Tax-deductible donations are still being accepted to benefit the project.
Miles said he appreciates his congregation’s fundraising efforts and also how they came together on the day of the fire to provide food and water to the firefighters.
“Our people are strong-minded, strong-willed. Jackson County people are tough folks. They really are. They are the type of people that just take care of things,” he said.
On Aug. 6, church member Rachel Roll posted a couple of pictures and a video of the demolition starting on Facebook.
“I was raised attending church in this beautiful building. Such a bittersweet day seeing it tore down,” she wrote about the church that was built in 1975.
“As sad as it is, I look forward to our new church being built,” she said. “God has given so many promises to us. God has great things in store for Lighthouse Tabernacle in Crothersville, Indiana. From the ashes we will rise. God’s promises are yea and amen. Thank you, Jesus.”