Church destroyed by fire still holds service

St. Paul Lutheran Church holding service outside.

POMARIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- Members of a 252-year-old church in Newberry County held their services outdoors just four days after fire gutted the church.

St. Paul Lutheran Church took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather Sunday morning and set up folding chairs on the church's lawn for its services. The church near Interstate 26 in Pomaria went up in flames early Thursday morning, leaving little but its stone walls intact. The cause of the fire is under investigation. The church was founded in 1761 and still and still sits on the same land granted to it by King George III of England.

Members like Melissa Harmon say it was tough to see it in ashes; and brought up many memories.

"My daughter has been baptized here," Harmon said. "My great grandparents helped build the church. So this was the first that I had seen the church since it burned."

The crowd was even bigger than usual because about half that attended were not members. Terrie Mayer was one of them. The former Mid-Carolina High School teacher taught many students that went to St. Paul. Mayer said she was on her way to her church in Prosperity when the huge crowd caught her attention.

"I said 'No, I am stopping now'," Mayer said. "When I walked up, I saw the multitude of people and thought this was phenomenal. It just shows our community support because we are a tightly knit community. Little Mountain, Prosperity, Peak, Pomaria, small towns but big hearts."

Bishop Herman Yoos said the support was much needed.

"It was an overwhelming sense of god's love in Jesus Christ being present through so many people wanting to be a part of this service," Yoos said. "It means we see the church as bigger than the walls of a building."

Yoos said the service was a very upbeat, positive one.

"There was an energy in this worship service. There was a sense in the holy spirit in God's presence and peace. And there was a lot of encouragement that this church will rebuild and rise from these ashes."

A feeling that is shared by Harmon.

"We have been around for 250 years," Harmon said. "We will be around for 250 more."

Church officials say the next service will be held at the old Pomaria Elementary School.