NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBS 2) — One of Westchester County’s oldest African American congregations was overwhelmed with emotion this weekend.
The walls of their famed church may have come tumbling down in last Monday’s fire, but new doors opened for them on Sunday.
New Rochelle’s historic, 107-year-old Union Baptist Church is now a shell, gutted by a devastating fire.
Emotions of gratefulness and hope swept through the congregants as doors suddenly flung open at the Episcopal parish down the block, offering space to Baptist worshippers who lost their cherished house of prayer.
“It’s been such a startling experience to know what they’ve lost,” Father Robert Gahler, of Trinity St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, said.
Father Gahler and his deacon handed out cards and signs of welcome for the displaced parishioners of Union Baptist.
“We just thank everybody in the community,” Union Baptist Pastor Reginald Hudson said. “We love you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Pastor Hudson spread solace and hope to his parish on Sunday. The congregants’ sadness turned to appreciation with the gift of a temporary home for services and bible study, so their charity work in the New Rochelle community can continue.
“A city of great faith will help this church come back quicker than anyone can ever imagine,” James Killoran, of Habitat for Humanity, said.
“We’re going to take time to grieve together as a family, but we want the world to know our hearts are still set on serving,” Father Gahler said.
The walls of Union Baptist Church may be gone, but members say they will rebound – and rebuild.
The New Rochelle mayor and city council say they will do whatever they can to help Union Baptist rebuild, including fast-tracking building permits.