One year later
Church has risen from ashes of arson
Roger Williams, pastor of New Horizon Baptist Church, is seen in the new church which was built after a man drove through the old church and then burned it last year. Buy This Photo
On Jan. 10, 2012, New Horizon Baptist Church, 17939 Paver-Barnes Road, was burned to the ground.
On Jan. 6, 2013, New Horizon Baptist Church officially dedicates its new building.
The Rev. Roger Williams said despite the cliche, the fire really was a blessing in disguise.
"In the process of all this, it has not only tested our faith but has actually grown us. We're not the same church we were last January. We're a stronger people. We are a people that love each other more than we did," said Williams.
The pastor is as pleased with the spiritual growth of his church as he is with the new physical growth in the 15,000-square- foot building.
The structure features a sanctuary with a capacity of 290 worshippers, a fellowship hall/gymnasium and cameras and viewing screens throughout.
"I don't know what the final cost was but we were able to work within our means and we're in no debt on this building," said Williams.
In fact, the church also received a total of $25,000 in donations from not just the surrounding community but from people across the country.
"We knew we were going in the right direction and having the people behind us as they were, we knew we were not going to fail," said Williams.
It was nearly a year ago when Stephen Beightler, 30, of Philadelphia drove a stolen BMW into the church and set the building on fire. Beightler is currently in the Allen Correctional Institution serving a four-year and five-month sentence.
"We've not visited with him but through our liaison, they've been communicating with us all that's been transpiring. I understand he's been getting the help he needs as far as his mental state, his medication and so forth," said Williams.
The church also contacted his family to offer assistance if they need it. They have not heard back.
"We still to this day don't have any ill will or animosity (towards Beightler)," Williams said.
Williams points out that in the past year America has seen a lot of different tragedies and the church as a whole needs to step up.
"There are people who are hurting. The church at large needs to do a better job at reaching out to our community because if we do have the answer to problems and crisis in our lives, the church needs to shout it out louder," said Williams.
Williams said his church members know the new building is just a tool for the community.
"We are to use this to reach out and assist our own community. That's why we're here," said Williams.
"We know God has been faithful and God has been good to us," said Williams.
The church has approximately 150 members but Williams said even through the transition period more families have started coming.
"We've come out ahead and come out stronger because of it. We are blessed to have at least experienced that process and rise up out of the ashes," said Williams. "We're still here."