Paradise Church of the Brethren lost in fire

A report from Pacific Southwest District and district executive Russ Matteson

The Camp Fire in Butte County in northern California overran the town of Paradise and other smaller communities on Thursday, Nov. 8. Lost in the fire were all of the buildings on the property of Paradise Church of the Brethren, which includes the main church facility and sanctuary, the parsonage, a youth building, and two rental cottages.

All persons who were a part of the congregation did get out of Paradise safely and are now living with relatives in other parts of northern California. The congregation’s membership was very small, as was the case with the Rock Fellowship, which had been renting space from the church and sharing in worship and ministry for the last many years.


Paradise youth building
What is left of the Paradise Church of the Brethren youth building after the Camp Fire. Photo courtesy of Brethren Disaster Ministries

In the face of this devastation the congregation has let the district know that they will not continue in ministry.

Rains over the Thanksgiving weekend helped firefighters reach 100 percent containment and extinguish the Camp Fire. Joel Price, district Stewards Chair, and district executive Russ Matteson visited pastor Melvin Campbell and his wife, Jane, on Nov. 28. As is the case with so many of those displaced, they are trying to figure out what steps to take next. At this time, residents are still not being allowed back into Paradise to see if anything can be salvaged from homes that have been destroyed.

Paradise parsonage
Paradise Church of the Brethren parsonage after the Camp Fire. The pastor and his wife were able to evacuate but left their home and belongings behind. Photo courtesy of Brethren Disaster Ministries

There is a need to provide support in spiritual and material ways to the Brethren who were affected by the fire. People have lost their homes and their possessions because the fire moved so quickly that there was no time to grab much before evacuating. The district is receiving donations to provide direct support to help with the needs of the pastor and members of the Paradise congregation as they seek to recover. Checks can be sent to:

     Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren
     P.O. Box 219
     La Verne, CA 91750
     Please note “Paradise Fire.”

Mail donations to support the Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) response and Brethren Disaster Ministries plans for a long-term recovery response to the Camp Fire to:

     Emergency Disaster Fund
     Church of the Brethren
     1451 Dundee Ave.
     Elgin, IL 60120. 
     Please note “Camp Fire Response.”

Continue to hold these church members in your prayers as they move forward and seek healing and answers. We encourage you to remember all those affected by this fire, and other wildfires, in your prayers. Also, keep in your prayers the first responders who continue to fight fires, ensure safety, search for the missing and deceased, and so much more.

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