Fire damages Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Raleigh
BY ASHLEY HENDRICKS
Billy Morris stood outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Raleigh on Wednesday, gazing at the fire damage and wondering about his church’s future.
Flames tore through the church at 2525 Sanderford Road early Wednesday morning. Investigators said they traced the blaze to soldering work on pipes.
A passing motorist who saw flames coming through the church roof reported the fire shortly before 3 a.m., said Raleigh Fire Capt. W. Preston Gaster.
The fire damaged about 75 percent of the 10,000-square-foot building, said Kendall Hocutt, assistant fire chief in Raleigh.
A multi-purpose building, including a kitchen area, behind the sanctuary was destroyed, Hocutt said. The sanctuary suffered smoke damage.
The Gethsemane Seventh-day Adventist Church School next door was not damaged. The school serves about 25 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Morris, who has belonged to the church for 36 years, said the church building had been undergoing some repairs, including work to the pipes.
“It’s a tremendous loss,” Morris said.
The Gethsemane church, which has about 350 mostly African-American members, was built in 1981. The church sold its old property on Person Street in downtown Raleigh to build anew at the Sanderford Road site.
Next year, the congregation will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Morris said church members hope to repair the building. In the meantime, he said, the church might rent a space elsewhere to host worship services.
Two churches have already reached out about offering space, he said.
“It’s nothing like worshiping in your own church,” Morris said.
Two firefighters were hurt during the blaze. One firefighter suffered chest pains while working at the fire scene, and one was hurt in a fall, Gaster said.
Both were treated and released Wednesday, Hocutt said.
For now, Morris said he is optimistic.
“Our church has been resilient over the years,” he said. “We will bounce back from this. God is in control.”
Two Sites with the Same Story
In the Adventist Review, and on social media, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists issued a statement regarding the candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson, who announced Monday that he is running for President of the United States of America.
The statement follows in its entirety:
As the 2016 United States election cycle begins, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is aware of the increased interest in the presidential candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson.
Dr. Carson’s story is well known to most Adventists, and he is a well-respected physician.
The Adventist Church has a longstanding position of not supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office. This position is based both on our historical position of separation of church and state and the applicable federal law relating to the church’s tax-exempt status.
While individual church members are free to support or oppose any candidate for office as they see fit, it is crucial that the church as an institution remain neutral on all candidates for office. Care should be taken that the pulpit and all church property remain a neutral space when it comes to elections. Church employees must also exercise extreme care not to express views in their denominational capacity about any candidate for office, including Dr. Carson.
We also want to remind our church members, pastors, and administrators of the church’s official position on the separation of church and state. The church has worked diligently to protect the religious rights of all people of faith, no matter what their denominational affiliation.
“We should therefore work to establish robust religious liberty for all and should not use our influence with political and civil leaders to either advance our faith or inhibit the faith of others. Adventists should take civic responsibilities seriously. We should participate in the voting process available to us when it is possible to do so in good conscience and should share the responsibility of building our communities. Adventists should not, however, become preoccupied with politics, or utilize the pulpit or our publications to advance political theories.” (From an official Seventh-day Adventist Church statement, adopted by the Council of Interchurch/Interfaith Relations of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in March 2002.)
As church leaders, you may be approached by your local or national media outlets to make comments on Dr. Carson’s candidacy, in particular as it relates to his membership in the church. Given the national implications of this issue, questions from the media are best handled at the level of the North American Division. Thus, please direct all reporters or inquiries regarding Dr. Carson or the 2016 presidential election to the division’scommunications director, Dan Weber, or associate director Julio Munoz.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church values Dr. Carson as we do all members. However, it is important for the church to maintain its long-standing historical support for the separation of church and state by not endorsing or opposing any candidate.