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Hoschton church gets a hand from others in Oakwood
Sheron Pass, left, and John Maddox pull apart a stairway attached to a building that will be moved as part of the building effort at Crossview Church in Hoschton. - photo by Tom Reed

While some people spent their weekend watching college football or hiding indoors from the cold weather, members from three local Baptist churches traveled to Hoschton and helped a fellow ministry rebuild its sanctuary.

On March 30, Crossview Church in Hoschton caught fire just hours after Sunday morning services had finished.

The fire damaged the building’s interior so much that the congregation no longer could meet in it. Danny Ashworth, Crossview’s pastor, said the fire started as a result of a "bad heating and air unit" in the building.

"It malfunctioned, and the wires caught fire and burned part of the building," he said.

Since then, the congregation’s 104 members have met in an old metal building that the property’s previous owner used as a workshop.

This was where the congregation first met after buying the property, Ashworth said.

There’s nothing structurally wrong with the building, but Ashworth said it lacks a heating and air conditioning unit.

"When it’s hot, it’s hot, and when it’s cold, it’s cold," he said. "We can’t do a great deal to change the dynamics of that."

So in September the church began building its new sanctuary using another old building on the property that originally had three walls and no floor. Despite these minor setbacks, Ashworth said the building "was in good shape," and he hopes to finish the new worship center by January.

Three Oakwood-based churches visited Crossview Friday and Saturday to help speed the process.

Members from West Hall Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Oakwood and Flat Creek Baptist Church all extended a helping hand to Ashworth and his congregation.

Steve Fenlon, pastor of First Baptist Church of Oakwood, knew Ashworth before the fire. When he heard what happened, he thought it would be a good service project for the three churches.

"It’s a blessing to us," said Fenlon about helping Crossview. "There’s nothing like getting out and serving together on a project. We really appreciate the opportunity to do that."

The three Oakwood churches previously had decided to work together on various community service projects.

"We felt like we could start doing some ministry together," said Loren Hildebrant, pastor of Flat Creek Baptist Church.

The Oakwood churches and Crossview all belong to the Chattahoochee Baptist Association, and Hildebrant, Fenlon and Ben Damico, pastor of West Hall Baptist Church, thought helping Crossview’s congregation would be a perfect project.

"With the three of us together, we can reach Oakwood, as well as beyond, much more effectively," Damico said.

On Saturday, between 35 and 38 people arrived at Crossview to help with whatever might be needed.

"They’re doing a little bit of everything," Ashworth said.

Flat Creek Baptist Church member, Ben Hildebrant, 17, volunteered his time because it was "just a good thing to do."

"It’s an opportunity that allows us to go and serve and help fellow brothers out," he said.

And Hildebrant’s glad he is able to do just that.

Last August, Hildebrant broke his C-5 vertebra in a swimming pool diving accident that left him partially paralyzed.

"It’s been a while," he said about the accident. "But it feels like it was just yesterday."

After surgery to correct his vertebra and a lot of physical therapy, however, Hildebrant is back on his feet and accomplishing a lot by himself.

"I just got done pulling up a fence outside," he said Saturday. And he did so without any help.

While some volunteers, like Hildebrant, helped deconstruct portions of the building, others helped add to it.

Flowery Branch resident Charles Smith, 29, who attends West Hall Baptist Church, helped put the subfloor on the stage in the new sanctuary.

A carpenter by trade, Smith said he enjoys projects such as this one.

"Anybody that needs help, I like to try and help," he said.

Other people helped hang insulation in the new building and some cleaned out the old sanctuary, which Ashworth said he hopes can be salvaged and used for "educational purposes."

Almost eight months after the fire, remnants of it still remain. The smell of burned wood still lingers in the old sanctuary, and a pile of charred rubble lies on the altar floor.

But Ashworth said his congregation has been patient.

"The church was real resilient, and we haven’t let it phase us," he said.

And the collaboration of three churches helping a fellow ministry start anew is proof of that.

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