“We’re in the soul saving business and soul saving has nothing to do with brick and mortar, so the church is going to go on. God’s church was operating before this church was built, and it’s going to continue to do the same,” said Pastor Otis Prioleau, Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Captain William Horton, Williamsburg Fire Department, said they responded to the fire around 4:30 A.M. He said it could be seen from four miles away.
Church members gathered on the property on Wednesday to remember the good times and show support for their pastor. Prioleau told WBTW how he reacted after receiving the news.
“As I was driving up to the church, I was already in prayer mode because they had already confirmed that the church was on fire. My whole thought was,’ you know Lord just give me the direction on what to say and what to do’,” he said.
Bethlehem Baptist Church is over 100 years old. Many of its members have grown up in the church and said it’s important to their community.
“Our parents, grandparents. We were all raised up here. But, God knows what he’s doing, and it will all work out,” said Randy Hugee.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on scene for several hours Wednesday, but there is still no information available on what sparked the flames.
According to Cpt. Horton, the fire was the largest they’ve seen in a while.
“The last large scale fire that we had was actually another church. It was struck by lightning a few years ago. Luckily, we don’t have a lot of this around here,” he said.
Pastor Prioleau said they plan to turn the loss into something positive.
“It’s an opportunity to live what you preach. To be an example for other congregations, for other people that tragedy happens in their life, and so you know we find it a privilege to be able to share our faith.”
The congregation will meet on Wednesday night at the church to discuss how they will move on after the fire. They also plan to have service outside the property on Sunday morning at 8 A.M.
“The building has been destroyed, but the church has not. The church is in us, so we’re just going to hope for the best,” said Letha Gray.