Hollister — First Baptist Church, Hollister, was destroyed by fire on March 19, the result of an apparent arson.
The congregation will meet for worship in the Baptist Student Union on the College of the Ozarks campus temporarily, pastor Danny Hartwell said by phone on March 22.
Church deacons and trustees met March 20 to discuss insurance issues. On Wednesday, the congregation was to meet for a prayer meeting for the first time since the fire.
"Our plans now are to pray," Hartwell said.
According to reports in Branson and Springfield newspapers, the fire broke out just before midnight on Sunday.
Western Taney County fire officials told media that evidence of a flammable liquid had been found at the scene. An investigation by the state fire marshal's office with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continues.
An 18-year-old unidentified Hollister man, suspected of setting the blaze, remains in critical condition in a Springfield hospital with burns to his hands, face, arms and lungs.
Hartwell said most of the three-story facility built in the mid-1970s suffered damage and can no longer be used. The sanctuary and fellowship hall were destroyed. The charred pulpit remained in place, but the floor and choir loft behind it collapsed into the lower level, the pastor said.
Some items have been salvaged, although most suffered smoke damage. Only smoke, rather than fire or water, reached Hartwell's office, so his personal library and other items were salvageable. Everything salvaged from the church will be professionally cleaned and then stored.
Hartwell said cleanup crews are not needed. Since the building is a total loss, debris can be removed by bulldozer. "Later we will need Baptist builders," he said.
For now, the congregation simply wants prayer for direction about rebuilding. "Right now, we're just asking for prayer because we are waiting on what God wants us to do," the pastor said. (03-22-06)