Roberts Chapel finds temporary home

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, November 4, 2008

PENDLETON – Their 81-year-old church lies in ruins, but the strong spirit of the Roberts Chapel Baptist membership remains intact.

Meanwhile, an investigation is underway to determine the cause of a Thursday afternoon fire that gutted the church sanctuary and caused heavy damage to a wing containing the fellowship hall and Sunday School classrooms.

Since Thursday, church officials have been flooded with offers of assistance.

“Our congregation is humbled and grateful for those extremely kind offers,” said Dr. James Crocker who serves as Pastor of Roberts Chapel Baptist Church located in the “heart” of the small community of Pendleton on NC 35 in northeastern Northampton County.

Among those offers was one from the Masonic Lodge located less than a mile from the church. Lodge officials said they would open their doors for the church membership to use for as long as necessary.

“Our Board of Deacons met on Friday and discussed using the Masonic Lodge for holding our church services,” Dr. Crocker said. “We used that facility on Sunday morning and the church membership, on a recommendation from the Deacons, agreed to use the Lodge as our regular place of worship until we can rebuild.”

Sunday’s services at the Lodge included the use of the kitchen area (for Youth Sunday School classes) and the main hall for adult Sunday School and the regular worship service. The Roberts Chapel choir will meet for practice at the Lodge on Wednesday nights.

“We had a number of other churches and groups to offer their facilities to us, but the Masonic Lodge is located here in our community, it’s a very convenient place for us to meet,” Dr. Crocker noted.

As far as future plans, Dr. Crocker said the congregation will “trust in the direction of the Lord.”

“We will come together and stand together, determined to rebuild,” he stated. “We will trust in the Lord. He will work for the good of this congregation and this community.”

Dr. Crocker added, “Again, we are extremely grateful for those who have reached out to us and offered assistance, financially and in other ways.”

Among those reaching out were members at nearby Conway Baptist Church. Dr. Crocker said that church donated hymnals for Roberts Chapel members to use.

While the Roberts Chapel members move on, it’s still a sad site to see in Pendleton where the church, built in 1927, sits in ruins, especially the sanctuary.

“We’re not sure about the damage to the remainder of the church right now,” Dr. Crocker said, referencing the Fellowship Hall located at the rear of the sanctuary. “There’s a lot of smoke and water damage there. The ceiling is sagging and the floor has buckled. We’re not sure if remodeling will cost more than just tearing it down and starting over.”

The SBI and Northampton County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the cause of the fire, according to Dr. Crocker. He added that an insurance adjuster was scheduled to arrive today (Tuesday).

Early reports from Thursday’s blaze said that smoke was seen billowing from both ends of the sanctuary, the heaviest coming from the back side, sometimes around 1-1:30 p.m. That smoke could be seen from as far away as Jackson and Murfreesboro.

Firefighters from at least seven different departments battled the blaze.