Church plans for Easter, beyond

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 31, 2013

When Bogalusa’s historic Bethlehem Baptist Church burned to the ground just before dawn on a Sunday morning last December, its pastor, the Rev. Christopher Matthews, was among the dozens of people who stood and solemnly watched smoke ascend where the walls had stood.

He vowed the church would rise from the ashes.

Now, as Christianity prepares to celebrate its most precious ascension, Matthews has announced that Bethlehem’s Easter services will be held at Mt. Bethel Baptist Church, 444 Elliot St., at 10 a.m. today. He invites the public to attend and to join the congregation in worship.

Matthews said his church is intact and in limbo. Since the fire, the congregation has been worshipping at Mt. Bethel.

“Attendance has been great at our services,” he said. “And we look forward to rebuilding our church. At this time we’re just at kind of a standstill. We’ve hired an architect out of Baton Rouge, and we’re waiting for the plans.”

The fire that destroyed the church building on East 7th Street was determined to be of unknown origin, Matthews said.

The adjoining Family Life Center sustained smoke damage and is in the process of being restored.

The pastor said he isn’t sure whether or not the church will hold worship services in that multi-purpose building once the restoration is complete in late April or early May.

Matthews is sure of one thing, and it’s been his slogan for four years since he’s been at Bethlehem Baptist.

“The best is yet to come,” he said. “We ask the community to continue to keep us lifted up in prayers.

“Just as Christ was risen from the dead, we will rise as a church. God knows how to turn things around.

“Just when you think it’s over, God has his own way of turning things around.

“We want the city to know that Bethlehem will rise. We’re coming back.”