Cross survives Upstate church fire, members gather at service

GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – An Upstate church devastated by a fire is using one surviving piece to help hold on to hope. Advent United Methodist Church gathered for the first time Thursday since flames destroyed its sanctuary Wednesday. There were emotional moments during a prayer service inside the gym.

The words of inspiration and music of hope painted a stark contrast to the damage left by the flames.

“It’s been a terribly long 24 hours,” said Pastor Michael Turner.

church-fireFire crews spent hours on the blaze, which they say started as construction workers were cutting steel beams and sparks got behind a wall.

“Even though I’d seen pictures, it’s a lot different to see in person.. it’s pretty devastating,” said member Thom Roach.

The fire tore through the roof of the building and burned almost everything in its path, except the cross hanging from the ceiling.

“It was suspended by two guide-wires from the ceiling,” said Roach. “It was always there over the alter.”

The cross – which now bears the scars of the fire – has been part of the church for decades, as buildings changed along the way.

“We were all amazed that it was still there and then this morning the firefighters cut it down for us,” said Pastor Turner.

Some of those firemen, along with members of the construction crew, were among the audience as Turner showed the cross during the prayer service. Church members said they were taken aback by the cross’ survival.

“I was very emotional when I heard that,” said Roach.

“Thought that was a pretty strong symbol,” said member Bob Smith, who’s been with the church for decades.

He said, like the cross, the church still stands strong.

“We’re still here,” said Smith. “God’s with us.”

“The strength that’s represented by the one who hung on that cross will carry us through all of this,” said Pastor Turner.

The Pelham-Bates Fire Chief said the fire has officially been ruled accidental.

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