Historic African American church destroyed by fire

Longtime member says St Paul UMC will continue its mission and ministry

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis has been a member of St Paul United Methodist Church nearly all her life and says the historic African American church has a long, meaningful legacy.

“Our church, along with a lot of these older churches made a big impact in the community,” Councilwoman Davis said.

Historic African American church destroyed by fireDavis was shocked when she heard about the Wednesday morning blaze that destroyed the main sanctuary.  She says the building has many memories.  She was married in the church, and she also says her early years were heavily influenced by its members.

“My experiences in life came through St Paul, UMC, and this is where many of us got our religious background and really training in all aspects of life, through the church,” Davis said.

Any structure fire has its unique set of challenges.  And those challenges increase dramatically for firefighters during extreme cold and ice.

“The first hydrant guys connected to was frozen, we have never had a frozen hydrant in my career, so they re-booted real quick, never missed a beat, and didn’t slow anything down. There’s definitely differences, you can’t even load your hose on the scene, cause it will freeze, have to let it unthaw to load it back,” said Tupelo Fire Chief Brad Robinson.

While the sanctuary was a complete loss, firefighters were able to keep flames from spreading to the parsonage, and the Christian Life Center at the bottom of the hill wasn’t damaged.

Councilwoman Davis says nearby churches have offered use of their buildings for St Paul members, and she believes the church will continue its mission.

“I feel like anything in our life that happens is God’s plan, this is part of His work going on in the church and it will return and be very influential in the community as it has in the past,” Davis said.

Tupelo Fire Marshals and the state fire marshal’s office will investigate to find out what sparked the blaze.

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