LAGRANGE – A power surge during severe storms June 27 is the likely cause of an early-morning fire that gutted the historic auditorium of First Baptist Church here.
Pastor Jeff Serafin said the power surge heated up some wiring where a column met the floor and started the fire. While the local volunteer fire department extinguished the fire quickly, the back wall of the church’s auditorium and its ceiling were badly burned and the rest has heavy smoke and water damage.
“We don’t know the extent of the damage yet,” he said. “It’s a very old church and it’s going to be difficult to repair.”
First Baptist’s building was constructed in 1892 and was the lead church in founding Hannibal-LaGrange College (now University) before the school moved to Hannibal in 1929.
As of press time, the church had not met with insurance adjusters.
However, Serafin is quick to point out that the church is not the blackened shell of a building.
“The true church is untouched, because the church is a body of believers,” he said. “I am really proud of our church family. Rather than looking at what we have lost, most of our members have been actively helping other people in the community clean up after the storm. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they have actively been blessing their neighbors in service.”
The church was already planning for a new facility before the fire. They are not in the middle of a capital campaign; instead, they are having a prayer campaign.
“I would ask people to continue to pray for us in this,” he said. “God is sovereign and we’re turning to God,” Serafin said. “We believe He’ll provide us a way.”
First Baptist, which runs 60-70 on Sunday morning, is temporarily meeting at the local Lions Hall. Mid-week prayer meetings will be at the parsonage.
BRIAN KOONCE/staff writer