Over two years ago, much of the 136-year-old Harmony Hall Baptist Church went up in flames during an electrical fire. Afterward, the distraught congregation vowed to rebuild, and now they are fulfilling their promise.
“It is an exciting adventure and an exciting time,” said the Rev. John Kinsey, the church’s senior pastor. “After two years, we’re finally moving in a positive direction.”
The church, which is at 4160 Mangum Mill Road, had a groundbreaking service in June and has since poured the foundation and basement walls. It is waiting on a shipment of steel beams before continuing construction.
The new building will consist of a full basement, fellowship hall and an auditorium for services and area meetings. It is expected to be completed near Easter, Kinsey said.
During the late evening of June 17, 2011, the church caught fire, which spread into the roof and from there to other parts of the building. Kinsey explained the fire is believed to have started with a faulty electric plug in the back of the church. Between the fire and water damage, most of the building was destroyed.
“It is devastating anytime you have a fire,” he said. “It especially affected our older members, many of whom had grown up seeing weddings, funerals, baptisms and other life-changing events take place there.
“After some deliberation, we decided to gather together and continue to move forward in the same location.”
This decision proved to be difficult as the church’s only remaining suitable location for services was its fellowship hall, which had a considerably smaller seating capacity than the old building. As attendance dropped, the church came up with creative solutions to the problem such as holding children’s services at the same time as regular services.
“On the positive side, other ministries are flourishing, and we’re still seeing young families come visit our services,” Kinsey said. “I think, in the end, it has given us an opportunity grow closer together and refocus the church on outreach and ministry.”
Reconstruction was delayed several times because of discussions between the church and insurance companies on whether to build a new building or deconstruct, repair and reassemble the old one.
Harmony Hall was originally established in 1821, only three years after Hall County was created, and is one of the oldest churches in the county, Kinsey said. It originally consisted of a simple log cabin filled with church pews before the main building was built in 1875 out of hand-sawn timber, which was notched and held together with wooden stakes.
Sometime in the 1960s, a small portion was added to the back of the church. The fire and ensuing changes have breathed new life into the congregation, Kinsey said.
“People have talked about a new building for a while, and some didn’t think they would live long enough to see it,” he said. “It’s just nice to be part of something new, and I believe this church will have a greater impact on the children and the young people growing up around here.”