Massive fire destroys Texas City church

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

TEXAS CITY, Texas - A massive fire engulfed a church Friday in Texas City.

The fire was reported about 10:15 a.m. at the Greater Bell Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Carver Avenue near South Bell Drive.

According to Texas City police, there have been no reports of injuries as a result of the fire.

Streets are blocked in the area, police said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Serving generations

The church stood for 134 years. To many people in the community, the fire destroyed a place where many memories were made. The historic building served as the place where memorable life moments happened.

"I was baptized over here. My family (had their funeral services) out of here. I was baptized at the age of 7 years old here," Chester Smith, a former parishioner, said. "Just years of memories, people who built this little church and built this thing."

"If they're not members of the church, they started here," said Jerry Lee Jr., the pastor, who has led the church for 17 years and grew up in the area.

Lee helped design parts of the church's renovation while making sure to protect its history.

"The stained-glass windows, all the people who worked together couldn't really afford it, but they got windows. The families, the pews, so much rich history," Lee said.

"This church has been here down through the years and down through the ages, but it always had one thing about it. It represented who we are as African Americans," the Rev. James Daniels, a pastor at another local church, said.

Many residents who lived near the church also had history and stories inside the beloved building.

"This church has been part of our community forever, as long as I've been here. I have friends who worship here. I've worshipped here, and it's so sad to see something so historic come down," Cheryl Jackson, a resident who lives behind the church, said.

Lee said he was concerned about the older members of the church who are distraught about the loss.

"I've got some members that are over 100 years old, and they've been calling. I've had one that's about 97 that's been crying," Lee said.

Overwhelming response to help

After the fire, dozens of people came to the site to see the building as Texas City, Dickinson, Santa Fe and League City responders worked on keeping the area free from hot spots. Lee said he has already received multiple offers from several pastors of resources, space and time to help parishioners who are mourning their church.

"Right now, we have to meet with our officers, and we have so much love," Lee said.

Sunday service will go on

Lee said a church in Hitchcock has volunteered its space for Greater Bell Zion Missionary Baptist Church parishioners to have their service. It will take place at 11 a.m. Sunday at Greater St. Matthews Baptist Church in Hitchcock, located at 6333 Highway 6, Hitchcock, TX 77563.

Lee said he has faith that God will provide.

"Don't let circumstances control your faith, and this is a prime example (of that)," Lee said.

Contact for Pastor Jerry Lee Jr.: JerryLee113@gmail.com

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