Now it appears the congregation of Main Street Presbyterian Church is ready to move forward and build a new facility on the site where the historic building sat in Fannin County, about 90 miles north of Dallas near the Oklahoma border.
“Our goal is to rebuild on the site,” said Mary Snell, clerk of session for Main Street Presbyterian. “We know we don’t have enough (financially) to rebuild what we had or what we want, so we are looking at options. It’s not going to be a quick process.
“We know God doesn’t take something from you without letting you know something else is in store for you. We know God will provide something new for us that meets His will.”
Pat Milford, a Main Street member for 45 years, said there was never any doubt about what the congregation should do after the church was destroyed by fire.
“There’s never been a moment anyone said we’ll have to call it quits,” Milford said, adding that an architect already is working on plans for a new facility. “Everyone immediately said we’re going to rebuild. We know God will provide.”
Members of Main Street’s joint youth group with McKenzie Methodist Church have been joined by the youth group of Allen’s Point Baptist Church and others to collect and stack brick with the hope that somehow it can be used in the construction of a new church structure. Iron and other metals have been salvaged from the church’s remnants and will be sold to assist in the rebuilding effort.
Jim Hawthorne, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dennison, Texas, is heading a Presbytery Response Team (PRT) from Irving, Texas-based Grace Presbytery that has been working with the session and members of Main Street Presbyterian Church, which was consumed by the fire on Feb. 10. He said the congregation continues to receive support locally and from across the state and country with various donations of furniture, supplies and money pouring in from numerous sources.
Five Presbyterian churches in Honey Grove and surrounding communities had provided ministry for more than 150 years in Fannin County. Those churches were combined into Main Street Presbyterian Church through the years. In fact, a church building had been at the Main Street site all those years.
Plans are being made to rebuild at the same site where so many members participated in weddings, baptisms and funerals through the years in a building that only weeks before the fire had been approved for a historical marker by the Texas State Historical Commission.
“There is a sense that it is sacred ground to (members of Main Street Presbyterian Church),” Hawthorne said. “They are focused on cleaning and rebuilding at that site. They are looking at building something different than what they had, but there still is a lot of work to do before that process begins.”
The PRT met with the Main Street session March 10 to further assess what is going on and what additional needs the congregation has at this time to allow for future worship prior to completion of a new church facility.
“We want to make sure we can help them until they can rebuild. There are some immediate needs to assess and determine what is needed for them to worship in the short term,” Hawthorne said, adding that Grace Presbytery and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) have been working to secure some grant funding for the church. “(Members of the church session) are exploring options to clean up the site and drawing up plans for a new facility on the old site. That feels like home to them.”
Since the fire, members of Main Street Presbyterian have been meeting for worship services in a vacant church building – the former Faith Tabernacle – just down the street from the site their historic house of worship once stood. Snell indicated the Main Street membership is trying to take possession of the building on a permanent basis if the details can be worked out.
“We do have a place to worship and are trying to make it our own,” Snell said.
The congregation, part of the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, has a membership of about 60 with a worship attendance of 20-30 each week, though that has increased since the fire.
Lost in the fire was the building and all its contents, including the 36 stained glass windows given in memory and honor of various teachers and church leaders as well as the pipe organ that was purchased from Moler Pipe Organ Co. in 1913, not to mention all the memories many members had built through their years attending the church.
“It was terrible,” Milford recalled. “It just breaks our hearts to think about it. It’s not something we can easily put out of our minds.”
“It’s not what we’re used to having as far as furnishings go, but we’re trying to make it our Presbyterian church,” said Snell, noting that the building is much more simplistic in its appearance than the ornate look of the former structure. She said a keyboard has been brought in to provide music for services. While not the same as the piano or organ, it has added to the worship experience.
A silver cross that was recovered from the fire sits on a table in front of the pulpit during worship services. It’s warped and twisted, with a broken base, but it survived the tragedy and serves as a reminder of the Main Street congregation’s former home and its continuing mission to serve the Lord.
Still a sweet spirit
Hawthorne said he has been impressed with the spirit and resolve displayed by members of the church, who continue their ministry despite the hardship brought on by the loss of their place of worship.
“The mood is positive,” he said. “Folks there are committed to moving forward, and they appreciate all the help that has been offered. They have such a good spirit and are looking to the future with optimism.”
Snell also acknowledged that sweet spirit shown by the membership.
“We’re a very small church, and a lot of our members live away and may attend somewhere else,” she said. “But this is home for them, and it has been heartwarming to see how everyone has pitched in to help. Through this we truly have been able to see the face of God through the kindness others have shown. It’s been amazing.”
So has the support offered to the Main Street congregation.
One lady from Brown Bow, Okla., was part of a PCUSA church that was destroyed by a fire. Sensing a similar experience of loss to that of the Main Street congregants, she immediately started sending donations when she received word of what happened in Honey Grove, dubbed “The Sweetest Town in Texas.”
Local churches have offered assistance as well as people in the Honey Grove community. Donations also have been made by other churches and individuals across the state and country.
“I think people have come through for us in a big fashion,” Milford said. “So many people are interested in us and concerned for us. We’re very thankful to the people who have been so good and faithful to send donations to help us.”
Looking to start anew
The desire to start over by the Main Street membership and the outpouring of support displayed by people across the country has touched Hawthorne, other members of the PRT and Main Street’s body of believers.
“It’s been very heartening for us to see and be a part of,” he said. “It brings smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts to see the resolve in these people and their commitment to continue being a Reformed presence in Honey Grove. We’re willing to walk side by side with them as their future unfolds. It looks like they are going to make it now. It’s just a matter of working out how.”
Snell added, “We’ve had so many generous people touch our lives. People have been so generous. There have been blessings upon blessings.”
A memorial building fund for Main Street Presbyterian has been established at Patriot Bank (201 West Main Street, Honey Grove, TX 75446). In addition, monetary contributions or donations of other kinds to the church can be made through Grace Presbytery, 6100 Colwell Blvd., St. 100, Irving, TX 75039-3148, or by calling 214-630-4502 or 800-678-4502. Checks should be made to Grace Presbytery but designated for Main Street Presbyterian Church.