Faith Sustains Congregation After New Rochelle Church Fire

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (CBSNewYork) — A massive blaze driven by whipping winds destroyed a church overnight in New Rochelle. The fearsome blaze ripped through the 107-year-old building in the hours after midnight, and it took nearly five hours for firefighters to bring it under control.

WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane on the continuing danger at the site

The huge fire first blasted through a set of doors facing Boston Post Road, then roaring up into the sanctuary, the bell tower and the roof of Union Baptist Church itself. It turned the stained-glass windows into a molten mess and thick, acrid smoke hung over much of the downtown area.

Several people were reportedly treated for smoke inhalation. A Monroe College dorm had been evacuated for safety reasons.

firefighters at union baptist church in new rochelle Faith Sustains Congregation After New Rochelle Church Fire

Firefighters at Union Baptist Church in New Rochelle (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

The fire started around 1:30 a.m. Monday. Firefighters said the blaze rapidly grew to a five-alarm fire. The blaze was brought under control shortly after 7:30 a.m.

“The windows had blown out, the stain glass windows blown out, firemen were inside and then the roof actually caved in. It was a massive banging in and the roof came down into the scene. I swear how those firemen got out of there is beyond my belief. I never seen anything like it before,” said witness James O’Toole.

Firefighters tried to enter the building early Monday morning to fight the fire from inside, but were forced to pull back because of the intensity of the flames.

“The fire was virtually coming across the street,” Fire Chief Raymond Kiernan said.

The current congregation had been preparing a centennial celebration for next year. They’d worshipped there only hours before the fire that gutted the main building and the attached rectory.

Many church members gathered at the site of the fire to witness the damage and to pray. They said they were leaning on each other for support in the tragedy. There were tears, or course, but as the morning wore on their faith began to win out over despair.

“I cried tonight but it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK,” said Janice Scanley.

“It was heart, heart-wrenching for sure but I know that God has got us and that definitely calmed me down after a while,” said Jackie Miller.

Their pastor, however, spoke of rebuilding. “The one thing we try to teach is to put our faith in action, and many times you don’t know what kind of faith you have until a challenge comes. So this is a great time. We came together. We prayed. We sang right out here. We will be in worship this week. We’re already looking at a different venue. And we are going to rebuild because this church is an historical landmark,” Pastor Reginald Hudson said.

“It hurts, you know, in our heart.  We’ve shed a lot of tears and probably will shed some more but we’re going to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate our faith that with God all things are possible,” he said.

What do you make of Hudson’s attitude in the face of this blaze? Sound off in our comments section.

This isn’t the only church in New Rochelle that has had to confront a disaster. In October, the Pentecostal House of Prayer caught fire twice in nine days.

More from Paul Murnane
Comments

One Comment

  1. Michael V Velazquez says:

    Pastor and Professor Hudson is an amazing man sent from God on a mission. I have had the privilege to sit in his class and experienced how he teaches so I can just imagine how he preaches. He taught me that the Lord is my Confidence and Strength and that the Lord will keep my foot from falling.. God Bless this church and they will rebuild Ill make sure of it…🙂

  2. Michael V says:

    Pastor and Professor Hudson is an amazing man sent from God on a mission. I have had the privilege to sit in his class and experienced how he teaches so I can just imagine how he preaches. He taught me that the Lord is my Confidence and Strength and that the Lord will keep my foot from falling.. God Bless this church and they will rebuild Ill make sure of it…🙂

  3. John Chasse' says:

    Its been years-but Im from New Rochelle .IDont think I was ever in the church-but remember it well. Truly hope it can be rebuilt-and fairly soon. Till then-gotta keep the faith !!

  4. Tam Fontecchio says:

    This is a sad day to me because I had the privilege, as did many others, of growing up in this church building, literally. I sang in the choir and ushered in this building. In fact, as a very young girl, I was baptized in the baptismal pool along with many other young people. I attended Sunday School, Worship Services, and Vacation Bible School for many years in this building. I even got married in this building! And although for many years, many families made many monetary sacrifices to ensure that people would have somewhere to worship and fellowship together, we were never taught to worship the building itself, no matter how historic or beautiful it was. And it was beautiful building. But I’m so glad I also learned about Jesus Christ in this building. And one of the many things that I learned is God will cause even this tragic event to work together for the good of those who love Him. And in doing so, He along will receive all of the glory!!! So Father, my prayer is that you would be glorified in the midst of this tragic event!!

  5. Min Terry Clark says:

    Jesus said that if you destroy this temple in three days I will raise it up again. Although he meant himself, He is the Chief Corner Stone of the Church. Pastor Hudson has led the people as God has instructed. When things go wrong we gather in praise and worship because we clearly understand that God Inhabits our Praise! In three days we will see a move of God that no one will believe!!!

    Minister Terry Clark
    Springfield Baptist Church

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