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Historic Black church holds service in parking lot after devastating fire

A historic black church in Clay County was destroyed by fire Thursday night. Members of St. Simon's Baptist Church are making do by holding services outside.

A historic Black church was destroyed by a fire last Thursday night. Now, members of St. Simon’s Baptist Church are making do by holding services outside.

Sunday’s service was held in the church’s parking lot.

The pastor’s assistant said the church staff will keep holding services outside until the church is rebuilt. Some of the 150 people in the congregation still showed up today ready to worship.

Even though there was no church to worship in, people made do with what they did have.

“Someone brought a generator so we had a power for an instrument and sound system,” said Moyenda Ambakisye. “My heart’s a blaze. It’s joy that I cannot explain.”

Ambakisye, the assistant pastor at St. Simons Baptist Church, said Sunday’s service was wonderful and chose to focus on the good rather than the church being destroyed. He’s been a member of the church for 20 years.

“It was a congregation with their heart on fire and those who came had a heart to worship,” said Ambakisye.

Ambakisye remains hopeful until a new church is built.

“The thing that the bible promises us is that if you give yourself to the Lord it’ll give you peace beyond your understanding,” said Ambakisye.

Investigators are calling the fire that destroyed St. Simon’s Church on Thursday night suspicious. It’s not known what caused the fire, but investigators aren’t ruling out arson.

Members vowed they’ll build this church from the ground up. The investigation on how the church burned down is still underway.


About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.