One day after Bishop's visit,
Greeneville church burns
The Rev. Rochelle Maxwell was attending the Clergy Gathering at State Street United Methodist Church, when at 9:15 a.m. she received a telephone call informing her that her own church, Tate Chapel UMC, was on fire.
Maxwell quickly left the Clergy Gathering for Greeneville, Tenn., at about the same time firefighters were dispatched to Tate Chapel. According to the Greeneville Sun, firefighters arrived to find heavy, dense smoke pouring from the building. While most of the flames were confined to the basement, the rest of the structure sustained smoke and heat damage.
By coincidence, Bishop James Swanson had preached at Tate Chapel's 131st anniversary service on the previous day, Sunday, Oct. 23. "It wasn't arson, we're told," said Maxwell, referring to information from fire officials.
However, the timing of the Oct. 24 blaze is especially cruel, Maxwell said, following the excitement of Swanson's visit and remodeling of the sanctuary just three months ago.
The basement, which included the fellowship hall, pastor's office, kitchen, and two bathrooms, was completely destroyed, she said. On the ground level, the sanctuary received smoke damage, and 9 of 18 pews were burned.
"We're going to rebuild the church, and not stop any of our existing ministries," Maxwell said. "We're waiting for the contractor's estimate."
Until the Morristown District church is renovated or rebuilt, the Tate Chapel congregation will join for Sunday worship with Pruitt Hill UMC, which is a 10-minute drive away and also served by Maxwell. Tate Chapel's average worship attendance is 33; Pruitt Hill's is 55.
Bishop Swanson expressed regret for Tate Chapel's tragedy.
"I'm saddened by the fire, but I am so glad I got the chance to be with those people that Sunday," said Swanson, referring to worshippers from Tate Chapel and other local churches who heard him preach. "I know the people of Holston will rally to help this church rebuild."