Fire likely destroys Paradise congregation




Paradise Church of the Brethren, Paradise, California

A Church of the Brethren congregation is among the many places impacted by the deadly wildfires raging in California this month.

Paradise (Calif.) Community Church of the Brethren, located about 15 miles east of Chico in the northern part of the state, is assumed to be destroyed, along with its parsonage. Pacific Southwest District executive Russ Matteson sent out an initial update late Thursday after talking with pastor Melvin Campbell, who had just evacuated the town with his wife, Jane.

Campbell said he “felt certain” that the church and surrounding structures had been consumed by the fire based on reports of the area, and Matteson said today he has “a hard time imagining it isn’t gone.” The district has not yet received official confirmation of damage, however, and residents are not being permitted back into town as the situation remains dangerous.

“It’s going to take a while” to get all the information and then proceed with insurance and other needs, Matteson said. He said the district is looking into other ways to assist fire victims, such as preparing disaster kits. Matteson said he hopes to visit Campbell late this month, possibly visiting Paradise if the area has re-opened.

The Pacific Southwest District conference held this past weekend in La Verne, Calif., opened with a time of prayer for the congregation and for those fighting the fires. News outlets were reporting this week that at least 60 people had died in the Camp Fire, with hundreds more missing.

“I invite you to hold the members of the Paradise congregation, their partner church The Rock Fellowship, and all the citizens of Paradise and the surrounding area in Butte County in your prayers,” Matteson said in his update last week.

Paradise is the northernmost of the district’s 26 congregations. Matteson said no other congregations in the district were in immediate danger. The nearest congregation to Paradise, the Live Oak (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, is about 40 miles away. Some fires are also burning in southern California, but no Brethren churches are nearby. A Catholic retreat center in Malibu is often used by the district, however, and that facility was still standing as of today, Matteson said.

This article was edited on 11/16 to update status and numbers.

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