Newsline Extra for June 10, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008”

“Remember your congregation…” (Psalm 74:2a).

The church building of Erwin (Tenn.) Church of the Brethren has been destroyed in a fire after lightning hit the steeple yesterday evening, June 9.

The same severe storm also passed through Bristol, Tenn., where First Church of the Brethren was hit by lightning but the fire there was contained in the steeple area and did not spread throughout the building.

Southeastern District has called for prayer for both congregations. “We appreciate the prayers. Everyone is just so thankful that no one was hurt,” said district co-executive minister Martha Roudebush. Southeastern District is starting a fund to aid the two churches, she said.

Roudebush received phone calls about the two fires at almost the same time. “You can’t comprehend it, the fact that it was the same storm, and two churches in the district,” she said. “It was just an emotional time.”

“The roof exploded with fire” at the Erwin Church, Roudebush said, describing it as an older building with a steep roof. “The fire traveled so fast through the building,” she said. However, First Church in Bristol fared much better. There the congregation will have to fix the steeple and a hole in the roof, but the rest of the building received only smoke and water damage.

Both congregations will be able to worship in their fellowship halls while the sanctuary is repaired, in the case of the Bristol church, or rebuilt in the case of the Erwin church. Both congregations are small, with around 25 to 50 in regular attendance, Roudebush said. First Church of the Brethren in Bristol is pastored by Michael Carmody. Erwin Church of the Brethren currently is being served by Phil Graeber, a retired minister who is preaching there part-time.

According to a report by NewsChannel 11 (WJHL) of Johnson City, Tenn., church members were among those from the town of Erwin who gathered to watch firefighters try unsuccessfully to save their 50-year-old church. Firefighters did succeed in saving the fellowship hall building next to the church.

Dramatic video of the Erwin Church fire has been posted by NewsChannel 11, go to
to view it online.

For Newsline subscription information go to For more Church of the Brethren news go to, click on “News” to find a news feature, links to Brethren in the news, photo albums, conference reporting, webcasts, and Newsline archive. Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for June 18. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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