BOWLING GREEN — Church members and builders are resurrecting a 156-year-old south-central Kentucky church burned down by an arsonist earlier this year.
The Mount Zion Church of Christ, considered one of the oldest Church of Christ buildings in Kentucky, was reduced to rubble Aug. 15. Police say the fire was the work of an arsonist.
After state investigators turned the property in Richardsville back to the church's owners, elders agreed to start rebuilding as soon as possible.
"We've built additions on the building ourselves twice before," church elder Charles Sandidge said.
Sandidge said the cost of the project could be cut in half or more by using church members who donate their time and labor.
On the first day of work, Oct. 18, about 30 people showed up to lay down the floor for the new building on top of a brick foundation.
"I was pleasantly surprised that as many people showed up as they did that first day," David Eadens, another elder who served as the church's minister for 19 years, told the Daily News of Bowling Green.
Professionals did the foundation work, but the rest, including construction of wooden outer walls that will serve as the new building's framework, was being done by volunteers.
Current church minister Gary Hays said the outpouring of support has been overwhelming for the congregation, which did not solicit donations after the fire but accepted as much help as it could.
"It's good to know at least that the help is available and willing to come," Hays said. "A couple of churches have contacted us saying, 'We lost ours to a fire, and we want to help you.'"
Church members said weather will dictate how many days of work will be required to finish the structure. The new building will measure 6,600 square feet, larger by 1,600 square feet than the building that had housed the congregation since before the Civil War.
The Mount Pleasant Church of Christ, eight miles down the road, was destroyed by flames a few days before the Mount Zion church burned. That fire remains under investigation. It's not yet known if they were related.
No one was hurt in either blaze.