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Church building rises from ashes

Church building rises from ashes
PASCALLE BIPPERT The Primitive Baptist Church of La Vernia has been reconstructed following the October 2010 fire that burned the historic original building to the ground.

The La Vernia Primitive Baptist Church filled with voices raised in songs of thanks and praise this past Saturday and Sunday, as the church reopened its doors for the first time in two years, having been rebuilt following a fire that burned the church building to the ground in October 2010.

On March 31 and April 1, the congregation held an annual meeting of Primitive Baptist congregations and a dedication service for the new church building.

The original structure was built in 1876 across the river; Presbyterian services were held there. Then in 1890, the building was “rolled” to its present site. It became home to the Primitive Baptist congregation in 1978, left to the church by Herron Wiseman.

On Oct. 13, 2010, Pastor Larry Hausenfluke, of Jarrell, said he was awakened by a phone call that the church building was in flames and was a total loss. He went on to say that they just lost a building, not a church. The congregants are the church, and they continued to meet in their fellowship hall after the fire.

In addition to the La Vernia-area families who comprise the local congregation, Saturday’s services were attended by members of various Primitive Baptist congregations across Texas, said church member Maria Wildenstein. Again on Sunday, visitors from other Primitive Baptist congregations joined the services, along with community members, local elected officials, and members of other La Vernia churches. Sunday’s services again began with voices raised in song, including old favorites, such as “How Great Thou Art,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Amazing Grace,” all delivered, in Primitive Baptist tradition, a cappella.

Every pew was full. The pews were purchased from the Laughlin Air Force base in Del Rio and refinished in La Vernia. They are approximately 35 years old. The old pews lost in the fire were 85 years old and had been purchased from the courthouse in Houston. The new front doors are made of knotty alder wood. A stained glass window above the baptistery in the new church is made from glass salvaged from the original building.

“The beauty of the house of the Lord is in the beauty of the saints that fill it,” Hausenfluke said Sunday, during the dedication service. “éWhen we gather together in His true Spirit, [God] will look down on us in favor and bless us.”

Brochures in every pew detailed the companies that assisted in the rebuilding process. Hausenfluke stated that many donated their time and materials to help the church and those who charged them asked a fair price. He was pleased to say that the building was paid for in full.

Voices were raised in song, led first by Pastor Hausenfluke, then by other congregants. The men announced a hymn number, hummed a couple of notes, then voices joined in harmony, all a cappella without instruments, using “the only instruments God gave us,” Hausenfluke said later. The sound was beautiful and could be heard outside the building loudly and clearly. Tenors, basses, altos, and sopranos all blended perfectly.

Everyone was invited to sign the guest book provided in the church foyer, to provide a record for the church of the many folks who attended.

Pascalle Bippert is a special correspondent for the La Vernia News. A La Vernia resident for 18 years, she is active in many community projects and organizations and has an active interest in local events and people. Editor Nannette Kilbey-Smith also contributed to this article.

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