South Bend church working to rebuild after devastating fire

NOW: South Bend church working to rebuild after devastating fire

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- A historic church in South Bend working to rise from the ashes after a devastating fire, and they’re asking for the community’s help.

Although officials have not confirmed if the fire was intentionally set, some members of the church believe foul play was a factor.

Before the blaze on August 30th, the church was being used by a few former members, who split from the congregation more than a decade ago.

“I was devastated and I had to pray immediately. I started asking God, what can I do? What can I tell the congregation?” said Pastor Lonell Hudson of Greater New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church.

With their 90-year-old sanctuary left charred, the Greater New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church currently worships at another location on Summit Street, but was hoping to expand as the church grows.

Pastor Hudson said the late-night fire in August broke out around 10 p.m. in the back of the building. Just days before his church was going to buy the historic sanctuary on South Bend’s west side.

“This is where I really got my start. I got started as a minister here under the leadership of Pastor Minor, James Minor, all of my members grew up in the church. All their children grew up in this church. It’s of great sentimental value to the community, to this area, and was devastating to all of us,” said Pastor Hudson.

“I felt very hurt. It was very tearful for me. I felt like something was taken away from me. My heart dropped. My kids were born and raised in that church. My family belonged to that church. Those were my roots,” added Beverly Betts, the program director and long-time member of Greater New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church and long-time member of the church.

Nearly three months later, the church still looking to rise above all obstacles to rebuild, and they’re asking for help to get there.

“We need help from the community, any kind of help we can get to get this building up and restored,” said Pastor Hudson.

The church hoping the community will pour into them so they can continue giving back.

“The main reason why we need to get this building restored is the vision God has given us, and that is give these young people something to do. Once we get this building restored on this corner as you’ll see the land we have, you’ll see all the areas we have, we’re going to be bringing them in, having mentorship programs, right here,” said Pastor Hudson. “I’m asking the community to give back to us so we help give some more to the community. Amen.”

Greater New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church purchased the historic sanctuary, along with the neighboring land. If you like to help with their restoration efforts you can click on their GoFundMe to donate.

Officials told abc57 the fire was investigated by the South Bend Fire Department and no suspects have been identified at this time. They did could not confirm if the fire was intentionally set.

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