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Church vows to carry on after blaze

Harmony Hall Church in East Hall severely damaged by Friday fire

POSTED: June 19, 2011 12:42 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle looks through the damaged area of Harmony Hall Baptist Church on Saturday after a fire burned much of the building Friday night. The church's pastor, the Rev. John Kinsey, says services will continue today in the church's undamaged fellowship hall.

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An East Hall County church first built in 1875 had much of its structure destroyed by a fire late Friday night.

But the pastor of Harmony Hall Baptist Church says services, and the church's mission, will continue despite the loss.

The fire gutted 60 percent of the church at 4160 Mangum Mill Road, causing an estimated $500,000 in damage, according to Capt. Scott Cagle, Hall County Fire Marshal.

The fire was reported just before 9 p.m. by a passerby. No one was in the church at the time, and there were no injuries.

The investigation into the blaze is continuing, but Cagle said it appeared to be accidental with so signs of anything suspicious, such as forced entry or vandalism.

The portion of the building that burned was built in the late 1950s, according to the Rev. John Kinsey.

Kinsey said heat from the fire caused extensive damage throughout the church, damaging or melting pews, chairs, sound equipment, projectors and musical instruments.

"It's pretty much everything, from what I've seen," Kinsey said.

"When they got here, the whole backside of the church was engulfed in flames. They (Hall County fire crews) immediately jumped in to do what they could to save the structure. They did a great job."

The pastor said he will meet with insurance agents Monday to assess the loss.

The church had added a metal roof, vinyl siding and other external improvements in the last few years.

In the meantime, services will continue today in the church's undamaged fellowship hall. Kinsey said temporary seating will be set up for  parishioners, and several area churches have offered to donate chairs and equipment.

"We will work around some of the challenges we have, and we will have services," Kinsey said. "Everyone is maintaining a positive attitude even though it's tragic.

"I think of the memories, the weddings, funerals, baptisms, baby dedications, all types of life changes ... and then when you see the rubble, knowing it's all in the past. But we understand there is a future out there. And just as long as there are a large a number of people who need that message, we will carry that message forward."

Kinsey said some 100 church members gathered at the church Friday night after news of the fire became known.

"There was a lot of emotion, and even this morning and today, there was a flood of people coming and asking what we are going to do," Kinsey said. "Everybody seems to have the same spirit, a spirit of cooperation, and that can go a long way."

And Kinsey said that spirit will keep the church moving forward even as it seeks to restore its home.

"The church is not the building," he said. "God's people are coming together to express concern and care and offer prayers, the kind of things that can help us through our struggle."



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