SAN ANTONIO - More than 30 firefighting units were sent to the scene of a huge church fire on the East Side just before midnight Friday.
The fire completely destroyed the Childress Memorial Church of God in Christ on the corner of North Pine and Hays Street. Hundreds of members watched helplessly as their church burned.
Come sunrise Saturday, firefighters were still extinguishing the last of the flames.
Bishop Samuel E. Iglehart has put his faith in God after the fire.
“Although the building is a total loss, the church remains,” said Bishop Inglehart in a statement. “The members are certain they will gather again this Sunday morning for their regularly-scheduled morning worship. The only uncertainty is where.”
Arson investigators were still at the scene Saturday morning, trying to figure out what caused the blaze. So far, the fire has not been ruled as intentional.
No injuries were reported.
Church members and neighbors stopped by throughout the day Saturday in disbelief that a church that has stood as an icon in their neighborhood since 1908 is gone. But they said it's only a building and the church will live on through its members.
“Words can not even express how I feel, and the devastation that I saw when I saw that the building was just really knocked to the ground,” said Bishop Iglehart.
The Bishop was sleeping when he got a phone call that his church was on fire. The church had been part of his family for more than 50 years – since his uncle first served as a bishop. When Bishop Iglehart arrived he saw a huge ball of flames erupting into the dark sky.
“I'm thankful to God that no one was injured and that we do know how to ask God for refuge and so we'll be ready to go somewhere in the morning,” explained Iglehart.
Iglehart is staying optimistic along with his church members. An estimated 500 people attend services at the church on Sunday mornings. Christopher Gonzales is one of them. He has worshiped there for 30 years.
“It's more like an end of an era because the church is like an icon - not only for the members, but it's an icon for the neighborhood,” said Gonzales.
Now as the church building as been reduced to a pile of bricks surrounded by crime scene tape, arson investigators are looking into whether foul play was involved.
The fire has left members like Shanea Hudspeth with so many questions.
“Where do they go from here?” asked Hudspeth. “It's really something good that will come out of this. I think this happened for a purpose.”
There are already plans to have church services at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center Sunday morning at 10:45 in Ballroom A.
A shuttle service will start at the church location at 9 am. Bible classes will begin at 9:30 at the convention center followed by church services.
Some people have asked how they can help out. The church pastor said the church numbers should be working soon, so anyone can call. Those numbers are 210.223.1262 and 210.223.5263. But he said he is mostly asking for prayers right now.