Lawton_It has been exactly 10 weeks since a massive fire roared through Lawton's Trinity Baptist Church, eating through the roof and parts of the sanctuary. 7News was on the scene just after the fire broke out on December 16, 2008, and when the congregation held its first service after the fire in the First Baptist Church's gym. Now, Trinity faithful are fewer than two weeks away from returning to their church home.
It has taken a surprisingly short amount of time for the church to be repaired and rebuilt considering the damage it sustained. After the fire, a structural engineer inspected the building and gave the congregation good news: the church would not have to be torn down. Repairs began on the day of the fire.
An electrical outlet was the point of origin for the fire which ate away at the roof, walls, Christmas decorations, and stage - but, not everything was destroyed. "On the stage, this pulpit over here behind me, was there with a candle on it, a 2-inch diameter candle that was still intact - it hadn't melted," said Richard McLaughlin with the remodeling committee. The handmade podium was crafted by a church member had about five coats of lacquer painted on it, and survived flaming roof tiles falling on top.
While the intense heat caused the chandeliers to fall, somehow the microphone still worked, and its foam cover didn't melt. However, something far more important made it through the inferno. "The pastor's Bible inside - we thought was funny - was not damaged, so we're going to worry about making sure we appreciate our furniture," said McLaughlin.
All of the furniture in the sanctuary must be removed so a new set of repairs can begin - but the work is almost complete with the first three steps already of restoration. "On the 8th we'll be meeting in this particular room here, rather than the sanctuary, and every access will be open to the building," he said. "We've been blessed by not having the building whole burn down."
Insulation has been replaced, hundreds of ceiling tiles were being repainted last week, and the group began installing new carpeting on Tuesday. McLaughlin says he can't get over that they did not have to replace the pulpit. "That was neat," he said. "It makes you think, that of all the heat that was in there to melt, burned everything around it - even the carpeting around it - and you'd think that would be the thing that burned the quickest. So, that was pretty symbolic on that situation."
After searching for weeks, church leaders made a big discovery - they found the original drawings of the sanctuary design on Tuesday morning. It should save them three months of planning. They hope to be back in a restored sanctuary in one year. They will have their first service back at Trinity on March 8 at 10:50 AM. They will have their final Sunday worship service at First Baptist-Lawton's gym on Sunday morning, March 1.
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