Roberts Chapel rises from ashes

Published 8:39 am Tuesday, January 5, 2010

PENDLETON — Old wounds are healing here.

From the ashes of fire Roberts Chapel Baptist Church will once again be visible at the heart of the small community of Pendleton.

Despite the frigid temperature on Sunday, shovelful by shovelful a congregation broke ground on their new church within the foot print of the original church at the corner of Britton Road and Highway 35.

On October 30, 2008, eight fire departments battled the flames that ripped through, and ultimately destroyed, the 81-year-old church. A State Bureau of Investigation and a private forensic team determined the blaze was ignited by the furnace.

Since then members have gathered at the local Masonic Lodge down the road to practice their faith.

After a scripture reading by Dr. James Crocker, Reverend of Roberts Chapel, the congregation was led in prayer. The first few scoops of dirt were reserved for the nine member building committee, then one by one the shovels were given to the members of the church.

“I really felt it gave ownership to the congregation,” said Rev. Crocker of the members’ involvement in breaking ground. “I think everybody is excited to get into the new building.”

Linwood Taylor, Chairman of the Building Committee, echoed the reverend’s words.

“I’m glad to see it get started,” he said. “We’re looking forward to completing it and being able to use the building.”

Carolyn Davis Steele of Greenville came back to the community she grew up in to witness the ground breaking.

Steele recalled her history with the church and Pendleton. Roberts Chapel was the place she went to church, where she got married and where her father was a Sunday school teacher and a deacon.

“It’s home for me,” she said. “I came back (for the groundbreaking) because I love this town and I love this church.”

Joan Horne remembered how she became a member 51 years ago when she married her husband, Joe, who is part of the Building Committee.

“It’s a joyous occasion,” she said. “The committee has done a great job; it’s a relief to know we’re at this stage.”

Mr. Horne’s first affiliation with Roberts Chapel was when he was 12 years old and baptized in a creek near Murfreesboro 70 years ago.

“It’s something we’ve been looking forward to, but I hate the way it happened,” he said.

Taylor said the process to get to the ground breaking was 10 months in the making. The Building Committee worked on the details of a new church, which will have a traditional design, stain glass windows and a brick facade like its predecessor.

C.A. Lewis, Inc. of Greenville is constructing the new church which has a tentative completion date sometime in the fall.

Crocker said excavation for the church’s new foundation will begin once the weather permits.