Children dressed in homemade costumes which are seemingly designed to be cuter than the next. Sheep, shepherds and all manner of farm animals, Mary, Joseph, angels and wise men all doe-eyed and rambunctious, that's how I remember Flag Springs Baptist Church. The past two years I covered the church's annual Christmas play. This year, they will have to find a new home as their church tragically was lost in a fire. But Sunday, Nov. 25, Pastor Ken Chapman welcomed his church family to Sunday service held under a homemade canopy yards away from the blackened remains of their church.
"Buildings may come and go," he said, "but God's love endures forever."
Chapman has just finished reading from Psalm 136 which is dedicated to how God's love endures forever. Later during his sermon, Chapman would read from 2 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which states, "Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances."
The previous week during a Sunday which had a high attendance of 65, this verse was the cornerstone of the message, a week later, after the devastation of the church being entirely lost in a fire, the cornerstone had not changed.
"Nothing has changed," Chapman said. "Circumstances may change, God never changes. We continue to do the work of God. We do it with resolve. It is a bit chilly, but we come with warm hearts. We are Flag Spring Baptist Church."
Dr. Calvin Brown, who is the director of missions for Concord Baptist Association which ministers to the 43 churches in the Cole and Moniteau County area, was present at the service and declared the 43 other churches of the association stood with them and will be by their side as they move forward to overcome their loss.
One of those church's pastor, Greg Morrow, from California First Baptist Church, knows firsthand the devastation the loss of a church building has. In 1987, Morrow was on staff at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, when they lost their building to fire. One of his students was Chapman.
"Morrow left me a voice message," Chapman said, "saying, "boy Ken we have been through this haven't we.' I remember 1987, the next day trudging through what was left of the church. It is great having someone like Morrow who understands what this process is like."
California First Baptist Church will actually be the temporary home of Flag Spring at least in December as they work through what their next steps will be. The church has offered to let Flag Spring use part of their facility which can house the church services indefinitely.
"I think this is what it means to be the body of Christ," Morrow said about helping out Flag Spring. "We have a kingdom mindset, which Jesus tells us to have. This is very personal for me. I have lived through a church fire, where we lost our entire facility for three years. I understand the magnitude of what this loss means. Our church has plenty of space. It will require some adjustments to accommodate our brothers and sisters in Christ. We just hope it will be a blessing for them."
Morrow added First Baptist has many ties to Flag Spring so he sees this as family helping family in this time. Chapman said while there is not much more difficult than this, God does His best work when it is the most difficult. They may have a long road ahead, but Chapman added God is going to get the glory.
"We want to remember this day," Chapman said, "because nothing will keep us from worshipping our God."
Chapman said the support of the local community, Concord Association and the Missouri Baptist Convention has been overwhelming and very much appreciated. During the service letters were read from students at Latham Elementary School encouraging the church, an especially poignant significance in light of the adversity the school has faced in overcoming the loss and rebuilding of their school due to fire. Flag Spring is actively involved with the students at Latham through meals on Wednesdays and the Buddy Pack program. Both things Chapman said will continue because despite the loss of their church building, "nothing changes."
To keep warm, before the service Tyler Woods provided hot coffee and fresh donuts. Songs sung included "The Old Rugged Cross," "We are Standing on Holy Ground," and "In His Time." There were 71 in attendance at the church service which will be held next week at 10:30 a.m., at First Baptist Church. For more information about Flag Spring Baptist Church or how to help, call Sally Vogel at the Beauty Bar, at 573-796-4851.
"It is still overwhelming when you get phone calls at work and home from individuals, churches and fellow pastors asking what they can do," Chapman said, "and how they can help. For First Baptist to offer what they have is truly a gracious gift. It has been overwhelming to have folks be this concerned about us and offer so much help. You do not expect any less from the quality of people we have in this area, but when it comes you are still taken aback by it and humbled."