Sunday Service In The Parking Lot

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- There's nothing left but the charred remains of the Tennessee Avenue Baptist Church.

It was destroyed Wednesday night by a fire, but that didn't stop folks from attending church this morning, in the parking lot.

"People have so graciously come today," said John Gray, the church's interim pastor.

This morning, nearly 50 people were packed under a tent for church in the parking lot.

The tent was set up as close to the Tennessee Avenue Baptist church as they could get.

"That isn't the church," Gray said, "The church is under this tent, it's the people."

As interim pastor, Gray offered words of encouragement for people seeking answers as to why God would take away their church that stood strong for 77 years.

"I don't think that God intentionally would cause a fire, but I think in a way it could be a wake up call," said life-long church member Julia Mays.

"I think when things happen this way, it could really be a blessing to us," Gray said.

The church members may also be lucky.

According to Gray, everything was insured and piece by piece they plan to bring their church back.

"We will build as far as we see," he said.

Some of the church members under the tent can't help but stare at their spiritual home's ruin's.

"The organ is laying over there in pieces," said music director Raymond Webber.

Through the layers of brick and ash, Webber still sees a faithful congregation.

"I can picture where every one of the people were sitting in that church," he says.

The 80 year old has been worshiping under the Tennessee Avenue roof for nearly four decades...

"It just tore my heart our," he said. "It's something gone, all of the memories that I have of this, the memories won't leave, but something is gone."

Lonsdale friends and church members are holding onto their faith and one another, knowing that a family that prays together, stays together.

Julia May's looks at the positives.

"It's sad because there's so many memories here," she said, "but we're still together and that's what matters."

Several Lonsdale churches have invited the congregation to join theirs while they rebuild, but Pastor Gray says they're not sure yet where they'll have service next Sunday.

There will be no Wednesday night services.

If you'd like to donate to the Tennessee Avenue Baptist Church, you can mail donations to P.O. Box 3626 Knoxville, TN 37927

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