FLAMES CONSUMED the fellowship hall of Woodland Methodist as Grady County volunteer firefighters battled to put them out.
Members of Woodland United Methodist Church are meeting Sunday to begin talking about recovery plans after a fire destroyed part of the building last week. Flames burned the church’s fellowship hall beyond repair, but volunteer firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading into the sanctuary.
“The firefighters on the scene made a very good stop on the sanctuary,” says Richard Phillips, chief of the Grady County Volunteer Fire Department.
Still, flames managed to char the attic beams above the sanctuary so a new roof is a likely need.
“We’ll have to decide if we want to save it or just rebuild,” says Pastor Charles Whatley. “We have a meeting Sunday to make preliminary plans about which direction we’re going to go in.”
The fire was discovered by a passerby the night of Tuesday, Sept. 17, and volunteer firefighters were dispatched at 11:30 p.m., according to Chief Phillips. When they arrived at the corner of Woodland and Elkins roads, the fellowship hall was engulfed in flames, he says.
Georgia law requires a state fire marshal investigate all church fires. Although preliminary findings seemed to point to a stove in the fellowship hall, Chief Phillips says investigators now believe an electrical short in the ceiling area of the hall sparked the fire.
Pastor Whatley said Tuesday he is waiting for the fire marshal and the church’s insurance company to release the building back to the congregation so they can begin cleanup, some of which has already taken place. A piano from the sanctuary is now in safekeeping with a Thomasville piano shop, and the carpet has been removed.
Whatley says he is thankful that handmade pews original to the church were not damaged in the fire. “That would have really been a blow,” he says. Two pews in the choir loft did sustain water damage, but should be salvageable, Whatley says.
Unfortunately, chairs in the fellowship hall that were lost in the fire had come from the former Union School, a county school that was open from 1939 to 1956.
Woodland United Methodist has a membership of 34, Whatley says. The sanctuary was built in the 1950s, and the fellowship hall followed in the 1980s.
Despite the damage to their church building, Whatley chooses to find the silver lining. “God has a plan. We don’t always know what it is, but he has a plan in the midst of a tragedy,” the pastor says.
In the coming weeks, the congregation of Woodland United Methodist will meet for services with Bold Springs United Methodist Church.