Gastonia community rallies together after fire destroys church on Christmas Day

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) – A church congregation in Gaston County is trying to figure out what to do next after the church building was destroyed in a fire on Christmas Day.

On Monday, they’re leaning on their faith and taking steps to rebuild with just a few walls and charred remains of the building.

The Place Church said it’s heartbreaking, but their church lives on through the members and not the building.

Bishop Ronald Dunkin, the pastor of The Place Church said, “we got a phone call that devastated us, devastated our families, devastated our church family, definitely has affected our community.”

Three hours after Christmas Day service, The Place Church was engulfed in flames.

Also Read: Head-on crash kills 1 in Burke Co. on Christmas day

“It was just a lot of white smoke at first, we were on the way down here coming down 321, and when we got here, we saw a lot of black smoke, a big puff of black smoke just pour into the air,” said Joshua Bradshaw.

Phil Welch, the Fire Chief for the City of Gastonia said, “units encountered heavy fire conditions that quickly broke through the roof, within the first couple of hours we had a collapse of the roof.”

The roof collapse made things harder for fire crews, along with the cold weather causing slick conditions and icing over the road.

From the time of the fire until now, 50 to 60 firefighters have helped put out the fire or hotspots.

Bishop Dunkin said, “we’re definitely thankful for the fire department, they’ve done what they could to save what they could, it looks like it’s a total loss.”

Firefighters did find a few charred bibles in the rubble Monday morning, a sign that this church will continue.

“There’s a lot of memories that are here at the Place Church, but one thing about it, the church isn’t the building, it’s the body and the people,” said Bishop Dunkin.

The church tells WBTV there’s been a tremendous outpouring of support for the congregation since the fire Sunday.

“Just keep the faith, God’s got a plan for us, so just keep the faith and something will work out,” said Chief Welch.

The church leadership is regrouping now to try and figure out the next steps for a temporary location in the coming weeks.

Bishop Dunkin said, “You know we’re resilient people and we’re going to cut through this, and God’s going to get the glory for this story.

Bishop Dunkin tells WBTV about 20 local churches across several denominations have reached out to offer support and temporary places for them to worship until they’re able to rebuild.

The pastor says this support is a great example of the church family in this community.