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Church begins rebuilding, destroyed by fire, Primitive Baptist Church takes shape again

 
Church begins rebuilding, destroyed by fire, Primitive Baptist Church takes shape again
Primitive Baptist Church congregation members gather around deacons Doug Wildenstein and Edward Ortiz Sept. 4 to break ground for reconstruction of the church, which burned to the ground Oct. 13, 2010. NANNETTE KILBEY-SMITH

LA VERNIA -- Work to rebuild the Primitive Baptist Church here has begun.

Last Oct. 13, an early-morning conflagration burned the church’s historic building to the ground. The former Rector Chapel, a wood-framed building more than 100 years old, had been moved to its site on Chihuahua Street from just outside La Vernia. The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined by the state fire marshal’s office. Officials advised Primitive Baptist Church Deacon Doug Wildenstein that the extreme heat of the fire could prevent the true cause of the blaze from being fully identified.

Congregation members gathered Sept. 4 after Sunday services and a fellowship meal to break ground ceremonially. The site where the little white church once stood has been prepared and forms are ready for a foundation to be poured.

“We’ve started the work,” Wildenstein said. “Glen Mills will pour the foundation, probably by the end of the week.”

After the fire, support flooded in from throughout the La Vernia community, as well as from Lousiana, California, New York, and Alabama -- “everywhere, really,” Wildenstein said. “We had help from people we’d never heard of. We didn’t realize how many people appreciated our church!”

The congregation, which has been part of La Vernia’s faith community for more than 35 years, decided the church would be rebuilt.

“We told people it was our intention to rebuild as closely as we could to the original,” Wildenstein said. “That’s what our intent is.”

Services are held the first and third Sundays of each month, and have been in the church’s fellowship hall since the fire.

On the third Sunday, services are led by Pastor Larry Hausenfluke, who travels from Jarrell. First Sunday services are led by Jeremy Polk, originally from Mississippi and now from San Antonio, who is exercising his calling to the ministry, Wildenstein said.

“We wouldn’t be to this point if we didn’t have the support from everyone in the community,” said his wife, Pat. “I can’t tell you how nice everybody’s been, with their prayers, moral support, finances -- everything. For many young adults in the community, our church ‘had always been there.’”

Support also came from the La Vernia Ministerial Alliance, the Wildensteins said.

Volunteers have been kind, too, Wildenstein said. By the end of the day of the fire, the rubble had been cleared by Kip Workman and other volunteers, concerned about the site’s proximity to children in apartments nearby.

Work and materials for the rebuilding have been donated, and more than $90,000 -- from the building insurance, donations, and other sources -- has been collected and will finance reconstruction.

“We were very touched and humbled to know so many people cared!” Pat said. “We’re very excited and we need everybody’s prayers.”

 
 
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