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Congregation forges ahead following Sunday fire

By Linda Looney-Bond

Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Mike Mullins said his congregation will continue to pray, and move forward, after fire destroyed the church early Sunday, and damaged the church fellowship hall next door.

"It just breaks your heart, but also it's unified our church, drawing us closer. We will not give up," Mullins said Monday, as he stood in the parking lot of the church, located at 7130 Mt. Zion Circle, near Morrow.

Fire broke out at the church, located in unincorporated Clayton County, around 3:45 a.m., Sunday, according to Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department.

No one was injured in the blaze, he said.

Merkison said Monday that authorities did not know the cause of the blaze, but investigators believe it started in the rear of the building.

He said investigators did not suspect arson was involved. "We're working together with the state fire marshal's office and ATF [federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] to determine the cause. That's standard with church fires," Merkison said.

The 30-year-old church has 57 members, according to Mullins, who said he was named pastor of the church five months ago.

Although the fire did not destroy the fellowship hall facility, the building received too much damage for the congregation to hold services there, Merkison said.

"It's mainly smoke damage inside of it. A lot of soot," he said. Merkison said that all of the Sheetrock may have to be replaced in the fellowship hall.

While the fire destroyed he church, it did not stop church members from holding service on Sunday, Mullins said.

"We set up chairs and had service right out there, under that oak tree," he said, pointing to a tree on the property.

"We've received five different offers from churches to let us use their facility of some type," Mullins said. "Mt. Zion [Baptist Church] has offered to let us use one of their buildings that's not being used right now. We'll probably take advantage of the offer from Mt. Zion because they're so close."

Mullins said the congregation of Calvary Baptist Church will likely rebuild the church in the same location. He said the church does have property insurance, adding that insurance investigators were on the scene Monday.

"One of the things we're really asking for is prayer," Mullins said.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the church may send it to 3017 Menlo Park Drive, Rex, Ga., 30273, Attention: Gail Black, according to Mullins. Checks should be made payable to Calvary Baptist Church, he said.