Sunday, October 2, 2022

College Hill Presbyterian Remains a ‘Living Church’ Despite Loss of Historic Sanctuary

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

While there has been no official ruling yet as to what caused the fire that destroyed the historical sanctuary of the College Hill Presbyterian Church in August, the church has since learned that foul play has been ruled out.

The fire happened at about 11 p.m. on Aug 13 and it blazed through the church’s entire sanctuary which was originally built in the 1840s.

“We may never know what started the fire,” said Doug Paul, an elder with the church. “It was most likely an electrical fire that started in the addition to the sanctuary that was built in the 1940s and then moved into the main sanctuary.”

While the church’s historical Bible was saved by a firefighter, Paul said earlier reports that some of the pews and the pulpit inside the church were saved.

“Everything in the building is gone,’ Paul said.

Drone footage of the College Hill Presbyterian Church after the fire, from the CHPC website.

Despite the devastating loss, services never stopped. The next day, on Sunday, the congregation met in the Fellowship Hall where it has continued to meet every Wednesday and Sunday.

“The last few weeks we have just been making sure that the church runs as normal as it can without the sanctuary,” Paul said.

With the remains of the sanctuary now cleaned up, Paul said church leaders are now starting to look ahead.

“We are absolutely going to rebuild the sanctuary,” Paul said. “Will it be recognizable? Absolutely. But will it be identical? Probably not.”

Paul said there are no design plans yet for the new sanctuary as leaders take the rebuilding process one step at a time.

“We have to get through these first phases and the insurance phase and then into planning,” he said. “But in the meantime, we’re going to need to fundraise.”

The church is asking the community to help support its rebuilding efforts via donations that can be made by mailing a check to the church at College Hill Presbyterian Church, 339 Co Rd 102, Oxford, MS 38655, or by donating online on the church’s website.

“This is a living church that’s absolutely moving on,” Paul said. “Is this a big loss? Sure. It’s a big loss. But did it kill this church? Not even close.”

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