A lighting strike started a blaze that engulfed and destroyed Trinity Missionary Baptist Temple Church in Hinesville last week. Church Pastor Lucile W. Smiley told the Courier the faith community and the faithful have come together to assist them in rebuilding. Smiley said they are helping through prayer and have provided donations through a GoFundMe page, cash apps, and through a Heritage Bank account.
Daisy Jones and Pastor Katrina Deason set up the GoFundMe page to help with the church’s restoration efforts. It was taken down once the goal was reached.
Dan Scott with SEGAR (Southeast Georgia Radio) informed the Courier that a fundraiser for the church was held last Saturday at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, 48 Elim Road in Hinesville. The event, titled “Take Up The Collection,” had residents stop by and donate $1 or more. All proceeds went directly to Trinity Missionary Baptist Temple to help the congregation get back on their feet.
Pastor A.D. Shaw of Full Gospel Tabernacle Church is holding a benefit concert service June 22 at 3 p.m. All donations will be given to Trinity Missionary Baptist.
The pastor said it is “too soon to say” if the congregation will be able to rebuild the church on sight, though that is the ideal place. However, church members do have a place to worship, Smiley said.
“The Rev. Sinclair L. Thorne of First Calvary Baptist Church offered the Ridgeway Smith Christian Life Center to the congregation. Services will be held every Sunday at 11 a.m.,” she said.
“Trinity Temple College Religious School graduation was held June 8 at St. Lukes Baptist Church with Dr. Alvin Jackson,” Smiley continued. “Classes will be held at St. Lukes starting Sept. 5, at 6 p.m. by invitation of Dr. Jackson.”
The church is relatively small, with 30 member families and three ministers: Jessie Shelton, Brenda Shaw, and Rev. Cynthia Jones, Smiley told the Courier via telephone.
Smiley and parishioner Jimmie Bomar were inside the church when the storm passed through and the fire began. The pastor told the Courier she was sitting at a desk inside the church office when she heard the lighting strike the 29-year old building.
“Don’t tell me it hit the computer again?” she remembers saying. Minutes later, Smiley said she smelled something burning and heard a loud pop. She and Bomar went to investigate. Bomar went down the hallway while Smiley went into the sanctuary.
As Smiley crossed the sanctuary, she glanced up and saw that the ceiling was on fire. Smiley then began to scream “fire” as she and Bomar made it safely out of the building.
The church did have a lightning rod at the top of the church steeple, Smiley later told the Courier, though she doesn’t know when it was installed. The steeple collapsed in the fire.
Hinesville Fire Department Public Information Officer Captain Robert Kitchings confirmed a lighting strike caused the blaze. The HFD was working with the National Weather Service to confirm how many strikes hit the Hinesville area, according to Kitchings.
Kitchings told the Courier that Hinesville Fire Chief Lamar Cook was first on the scene of the fire. As he waited for fire units to arrive, Cook witnessed the flames spread rapidly, resulting in the roof to collapse.
Units from stations 11 and 22 responded as did mutual aid from Walthourville Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Fort Stewart and Liberty County Fire Services, according to a release from Hinesville Public Relations Manager Whitney Morris-Reed.
Firefighters battled the blaze for about an hour before containing it. They then followed up by attending to hotspots. City officials said the church building has been declared a total loss.