Community holds prayer service after fire destroys Chesterfield church

Community holds prayer service after fire destroys Chesterfield church
(Source: NBC12)
(Source: NBC12)

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A massive fire destroyed a church on Beaver Bridge Road in Chesterfield on Monday morning.

Numerous fire crews were called to the scene at Centenary United Methodist Church in the Winterpock area around 4 a.m.

With no fire hydrants in the area, tankers from Chesterfield and Amelia crews brought in water to battle the blaze.

"Nothing left but the steps," Chesterfield fire officials posted to social media.

Scott Phillips, who has been a member of Centenary UMC for 54 years, says he rushed to the scene when he learned what happened from his sister.

"It's like when you hear a family member is sick and you rush to their side," said Phillips, whose entire family attends the church. "That's how I felt when I heard my church was on fire."

Phillips says his ties to the church go back for generations and many of his family members are buried in the graveyard in the back of the church.

He says this is all hard to imagine, but the community will come together and help rebuild.

"This is where they have gone to church, this is where they have served for so many years," said the Rev. Pennie Foy. "There are so many stories, where they have been baptized, where their children have been baptized, where they were married. There are so many memories and for them."

Ramona Winckler Jacobs, who attended the church for nearly 60 years, rushed to the church after she heard there was a fire. She says she and her children were christened there.

"My baptism … of course my christening, I was less than a year old," Jacobs said. "I was truly brought into the church at probably 12 and continued to go here. I was married here in 1987. My husband and I continued to go here for our 33 years of marriage."

Jacobs said the church was her second home.

"If you wanted to come to a close, homey, loving country church, Centenary was the one to come to," Jacobs said. "Everyone who came was always welcome. You were welcomed with greeters and open arms and a hug when you left."

Jacobs has family members buried in the back of the church, too.

Within hours of the fire, Centenary's neighbor, Bethia UMC reached out to help.

"60 years ago, these two churches shared a pastor, and so for years and years, we've had a very close and good relationship with them," said pastor Jay Carey. "It was the right thing to do, because they would do the same thing if the situation was reversed."

The church held a Monday night service and prayer. Centenary United Methodist Church was insured, so they'll be able to rebuild.

This Sunday, Centenary will hold service back at Bethia, then they'll look to find a more long-term solution while they figure out how to rebuild.

There's currently no information on what sparked the blaze, which took about two hours to get under control. No injuries have been reported.


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