Congregation holds Sunday service outside after sanctuary fire

New Hope United Methodist Church caught fire Friday

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – A Franklin County church did not let the lack of a sanctuary stop them from praising the Lord.

New Hope United Methodist Church's sanctuary caught fire Friday morning, which left the inside uninhabitable. Franklin County Sheriff’s Office investigators told 10 News at the scene the fire is “suspicious."

New Hope's congregation still showed up Sunday despite the fire, but they had service outside in the church's pavilion.

"It could've been pouring down rain, it could've been snowing. We would have still been here," said longtime church member Carolyn Saul. "This is our home."

Pastor Amy Pannell used the outdoor service to tell her congregation a message of gratitude and empathy.

 "This is a love story that rises us up to reach out to care for each other and be each other's helpers," Pannell said. "In all the mess and all the emotions we can name and can't name, Jesus is here with us. He's been here, and he's helping us listen to each other's stories."

The sanctuary is still structurally sound, but New Hope does not know when they will be able to rebuild and reopen it. The congregation will continue to come out and pray every Sunday morning regardless of if the sanctuary is ready.

 "We persevere, and God is strong here," Saul said. "We're still standing."

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