MILTON, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A devastating fire damaged a Northumberland County church. Despite the problems, church members say they are holding on to hope.
“It’s going to take a while to get everything cleaned up, but we’re looking at a bright future,” Reverend William McNeal of Bethany United Methodist Church said.
It has been a busy 24 hours in Milton as churchgoers and members of the community band together after flames damaged the Bethany United Methodist Church Tuesday.
“Bethany was one of the most beautiful churches in the town and I was brought to tears as I looked over down the hill and realized it was on fire,” Pastor John Hoke of St. Joseph’s Church said.
Fire marshals spend the morning trying to figure out what caused the blaze. They don’t have a clear answer yet, but do say it’s not suspicious. In the meantime, McNeal says he plans to keep pushing forward.
“We’re planning for the future. This is not a stopping place. This is just a little bump in the road that we’re going to continue on. The church does not give up easy, so we’re looking forward to great hope for the future,” McNeal said.
McNeal tells Eyewitness News that the roof is repairable and although it’s a long journey ahead getting everything sorted out, he says he’s thankful to have the community standing by his side. Many churches in the community are offering to help, including Hoke.
“I prayed that the congregation will see the light of Christ shining through the smoke. God’s grace will shine through the fire and devastation,” Hoke said.
Non-church members are offering words of hope.
“We serve a God of hope. We serve a God of new days and new seasons of ministry and this is a strong congregation that’s already pulling together,” district superintendent of the Lewisburg District of United Methodist Church Larry Leland said.
And former members are reminiscing about the good times they had in the nearly 150-year-old sanctuary.
“We got a lot of memories. Christmas time you know, church always looked beautiful. It’s a beautiful church inside,” former lay minister Gary Anfpach said.
With the first Sunday of Advent coming up this week, church members say it’s a Sunday of hope and a Sunday of preparation and new beginnings.
Members of Bethany United Methodist Church will meet Sunday morning at their sister church, St. Andrews, at 10 a.m. for prayer and thought then will take part in services.