MAYFIELD - Members of the Mayfield Presbyterian Church gathered Sunday at the site of what will be a rebuilt church at 22 N. Main St.
With shovels in hand, they broke ground in a ceremony that marks a new beginning for the congregation after watching their former church burn down in an April 2011 fire.
"We have been tested by fire, but our faith is strong," the Rev. Bonnie Orth, church pastor, said after the ceremony. "There was a gentleman who used to come every morning and walk around the church, and just quietly, with tears running down his face. I would go out and walk with him every morning. That's probably the hardest to see; how grieved people have been by the loss."
A group breaks ground Sunday at the site of the new Mayfield Presbyterian Church. The former church on the site burned down in April 2011.
The Leader-Herald/John Borgolini
During the ceremony, Orth led workers and members in prayer and song. She offered a message of hope before she and workers put their shovels into the dirt to signify the beginning of reconstruction.
Orth said spirits remain high.
The Sunday after the fire, members started a blessing book, in which people wrote down the blessings they have noticed since the fire. She said the book has reminded the community God is always with them and continues to bless them.
Jim Hundt of Foresight Architects of Schenectady, which will lead the construction, said the company has helped build 70 churches and there is a lot of discussion with church members that goes into such a project.
"They come up with a list of things that they want, and we try to help them see how much they can afford and try to make it all work for them," Hundt said.
One thing the new church won't have is a steeple and bell.
On April 28, 2011, the steeple of the former church was struck by lightning, igniting the fire.
Orth said constructing a bell steeple would be too expensive. Instead, the church will have a cupola.
Virginia Hall, who was baptized at the church, and fellow member Nancy Frank said all that matters is the process for the new church is beginning.
"We're getting a new home," Hall said.
The new church will have the flexibility to seat more than 200 people. The one-story church will be 7,444 square feet and include an attic, a sanctuary and space for a fellowship hall. The building will include a nursery, two classrooms, a choir room, a small conference room, several closet spaces, a food pantry, a kitchen and offices.
The congregation has been meeting at the Mayfield High School auditorium since the fire.
"It's sad to say goodbye to the [old church], but this is a new beginning. And we really need that," Frank said. "Meeting up at the school is fine, but it's not [the same]."
The church project may cost $1.3 million.
The congregation is trying to raise $300,000.