Carpenters were putting the roof on the porch that shelters the entrance of the El Bethel Church of God in Christ Wednesday morning as Rev. Dylan Barry opened the front door to a sanctuary that was ravaged by an electrical fire on March 13.
The fire completely destroyed the interior of the church, leaving the membership to wonder whether it would be possible to salvage the exterior’s cinder block walls.
Their prayers were answered as the church was rebuilt from within and now opens for its first church service since the fire with an 11:30 a.m. service. Located at 622 S. Jefferson, the congregation has been meeting in an auxiliary building, called “The Annex” located next to the sanctuary during reconstruction.
Barry said the fire destroyed the furnishings, musical instruments, sound system, and hymnals as well as the interior walls of the building.
“The destruction was so complete that some people couldn’t stand to look at it,” Barry said. “But we were fortunate because we own the building next door and so we’ve holding services over there while we were making repairs over here.”
“Here” is a new sanctuary within the old concrete block walls. The new walls are covered with bright white paint that reflects not only the natural light from the building’s windows, but also reflects light from new electrical fixtures. The new drum set on the platform is also white. The pulpit, communion table and other furnishings are made of traditional wood.
Congregants will be seated on padded chairs, purple in color to coordinate with the carpet, which has an indefinite pattern that blends purple with black and a lighter color.
“We want the church to be comfortable and beautiful,” Barry said. “Everyone is welcome here.”
Restoring the church had a price tag of between $140,000-$150,000, Barry said.
“Our insurance was pretty good, but we couldn’t have done this without the help of people in the community of Hobbs. Local churches, individuals, Papa John’s, the whole community seemed to come together to help us,” Barry said. “As a result, we haven’t had to borrow any money. And contributions are still coming in. We’ve seen the generosity of the community first-hand.”
Barry said COGIC churches are ecumenical.
“We believe that all churches are trying to do the same thing, win souls for Christ. The structure of their Sunday services might be different, and at our church we might get a little loud, but what we all want the same thing,” Barry said. “We want people to follow the leading of the Spirit and if a person is in the Spirit, we want them to be free to express it.”
Although this Sunday was the first time the congregation worshiped in the restored sanctuary, there will be a special service celebrating the reopening of the building.
“We don’t have an exact date yet, but the bishop, who lives in Lubbock, will come to preach at a service at 3 p.m.,” Barry said.
As the church returns to its normal schedule Sunday School will meet at 10 a.m. with the worship service to follow.
Barry said members of the congregation include people of most ethnicities in Hobbs.
“Everyone is welcome. People don’t have to dress up to come to our church. They can come however they feel comfortable,” Barry said.
Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.