Worshippers regroup after fire destroys church

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JASPER, Ga. - Churchgoers in Pickens County are grieving this morning after a massive fire Saturday night left them without a place to call home.

Worshipers from Gospel Outreach Church of North Georgia in Jasper held Sunday service, despite the loss of a 20,000-square-foot old bargain barn that burned to the ground. The barn was used as a worship place for the congregation.

The Rev. Jerry Stewart stopped by the barn around 5:15 p.m. Saturday to turn the heat up for Sunday morning service.

"We keep it set low. I came in, turned all the dials up," he told Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach.

He got about five minutes down the road before he got a call the fire alarm was going off. Gehlbach obtained a church member's cellphone video of the blaze.

The pastor could only watch as the investment of love, time and money put into the building went up in flames.

"I grieve over the loss of the physical part of that, but the eternal part of it is never lost. Those are treasures the Bible says are laid up in heaven and they will forever be there," Stewart said.

And that was the message Sunday morning as close to 200 people worshiped together at a community center in Jasper.

The fire chief says the cleanup will have to wait until investigators with the state fire marshal's office arrive Monday morning.

"We'll be here today, all day and all night tonight on fire watch with an engine till they get here tomorrow," said Pickens County Fire Chief Bob Howard.

"The question isn't why; the question is what now. That's the question we'll be after. Put this in perspective and say what now?" the pastor said.

It's unclear if the heating system sparked the fire.

The old barn was made up of four buildings connected and added onto over the years, which helped it spread quickly. The church celebrated its one-year anniversary last Sunday.



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