Members of Mansfield First Church of the Nazarene had a Christmas service on the lawn Sunday, as their burned church building smoldered nearby.
Pastor Michael Murphy offered words of comfort and strength, and wanted to make one thing clear:
“The building is not the church, the people are the church,” Murphy said he told the congregation of about 45 people, which included members of two other churches that rent space for services at alternate times. “The church is where you go out into the neighborhood and interact with people daily.”
Mansfield Fire Chief Barry Bondurant said crews received a call about the church at 4:47 a.m. and saw heavy flames and smoke in the back of the building at 1804 Farm Road 157.
“Due to the progression of the fire and the wind, we went into defensive mode and didn’t send anyone in right away,” Bondurant said.
No injuries were reported, but the building appears to be a total loss, Bondurant said.
The cause is still under investigation.
On Sunday afternoon Murphy said he was still trying to process it all and figure out next steps.
“I’m still kind of numb, I still can’t believe this happened,” the pastor said. “We are a very small, struggling church, trying to make a difference in our community. We’re strong spiritually … That is what’s going to keep us together. Our unity, our strength and our faith in God.”
Even though the church has no building, or even any chairs, plans for next week’s service are in the works.
“We talked about renting a tent open-air for the first Sunday,” he said. “That’s one of the ideas we’re kicking around.”
Brenda Murphy, the pastor’s wife, said she was amazed at the offers of help by those who stopped by the church Sunday morning.
“The outpouring of people, pastors, community members … You really felt like the presence of the Lord was there,” she said.
Susan McFarland: 817-390-7984, @susanmcfarland1