There’s a patch of fresh grass now where Teaver Road Baptist Church’s sanctuary once stood.
And the leaders of the church say they don’t think about that day, much, when the sanctuary burned a little more than a year ago.
While the hall wasn’t replaced with brick and mortar, it has been a rebuilding year for the church.
Not only was the congregation faced with recovering from the fire, it did so without a lead pastor who had left the church only weeks before. Dealing with a fire and replacing a pastor would be major undertakings for a church if they’d happened individually. For Teaver Road members, it happened all at once.
“Everyone here wants to move forward for God,” said the Rev. Danny Geter, who was hired to lead the congregation in November.
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Jeff Benefield, chairman of the church deacons, was at home the morning of Jan. 8, 2012, when he got a call from one of the ladies of the church. The building was on fire.
It wasn’t a small fire, either. Troup County firefighters had to kick down the door as flames burst from the roof and the entire building smoked for hours.
“It was a shock,” Benefield said, to hear the news.
There was relief, however, about a week later to hear the fire wasn’t suspicious, although its cause was undetermined. It wasn’t arson.
“No one believed that it would be,” but it was still good to hear, Benefield said.
The Rev. Aaron McCollough, who already had planned to “sub” that Sunday morning, immediately went to the church upon hearing the news. Members had gathered across the road as a heavy mist blanketed the area along with the smoke. There were prayers — and tears.
“It was the first, and I hope the only, time I stood in the middle of the road conducting a prayer service and preaching a sermon while the sanctuary of the church was burning behind me,” he said. “As I looked into the eyes of those members, I saw determination and faith that, even though the life of the church would never be the same, it would go forward.”
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Not just the building was lost that day. Members had begun compiling a history of the church, with photos and other items. All of it burned in the fire.
Benefield said the church now is collecting members’ memories of its history, even without the accompanying photographs.
“It’s the memories that are lost that are the most sad,” he said. “So many people were married, christened or baptized here in 30-plus years.”
Yet, even that morning, church members were thankful. Only the sanctuary burned, despite flames that tried desperately to reach the large, newly constructed community building behind the sanctuary. Another smaller building used for the youth also was saved.
“This (community) building was here for a reason,” Benefield said. It now serves as the main sanctuary and Sunday school, along with traditional Wednesday night suppers and other events.
The church is forever thankful to McCollough and his wife Marianne, who also came the morning of the fire. He served as the church’s interim pastor until Geter was found.
“I don’t know if we would have made it without them,” Benefield said.
He was supposed to stay for 90 days to help the church through the transition. McCollough was there for eight months.
“I watched as God brought order out of chaos. But, He always does. I am thrilled to see them where they are today,” McCollough said.
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A few months after the fire, church members wanted to put on a revival. McCollough helped put it together. One of the preachers on one of the four nights was the Rev. Danny Geter.
“We loved what he brought,” Benefield said.
When the church began the official hiring process for a new pastor, Geter fulfilled everything the congregation wanted in a new leader.
Geter had been associate pastor at Creekside Baptist Church with his father, the Rev. Bryan Geter, for four years.
“I came (to Teaver Road) just looking to preach. God had other plans,” Danny Geter said.
While the younger Geter enjoyed preaching with his father, he was open to a new opportunity to lead his own congregation. He’s still a “bi-vocational” minister, he is a counselor at a counseling service during the day.
“It’s been a good first couple of months,” Geter said. “It’s a good fit. We’ve had several people join and we’ve had several baptisms.”
Benefied said Geter has helped the church move forward, looking for opportunities to serve in the community.
“It’s the beginning of a new journey,” Geter said. “It’s the scariest, most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”
The number one question he gets, though, is “When is the church going to rebuild?” There are no plans to do that, at least not with a building.
“If we do rebuild, it’s going to be with something fresh,” he said, a whole new look for the church.
“We have a blank canvass,” Geter said.