‘We’re still here’: Congregation stays strong after fire destroys building

Published 5:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2022

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VIDALIA, La. — Vidalia United Methodist Church may not have a building still standing, but the congregation is still going strong with weekly services and summer programs.

One such program took place last weekend—a “play day” on the site of where the church building once stood on Oak Street in Vidalia, before a fire destroyed it one Sunday morning in July 2021.

Children rode bikes on the concrete foundation left behind from the old church building on Saturday afternoon and played on a water slide in the front yard of the church pastor, the Rev. Steve McDonald’s house next door. Church members fed them with cotton candy and grilled burgers and hotdogs.

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The Vidalia Fire Department also joined in the fun with a fire truck on site.

“If it weren’t for them, we would have lost everything, the parsonage too,” church member Guylyn Bowls said of the firefighters. “They did a wonderful job.”

Altogether, there were approximately 20 children and 30 adults attending.

The play day is one tool the church is using to remind the community that Vidalia UMC is still alive, she said.

“This is the second one we have and we plan to do something every month so people will know we’re still here,” Bowls said.

The First Presbyterian Church of Vidalia gave space to Vidalia UMC for regular services at 9 a.m. every Sunday before the Presbyterian church service. Vacation Bible School will be held there this summer during the last week of June from 5:30 to 8 p.m., McDonald said.

“As long as they’re not in diapers, we’ll take them,” he said of the age groups. “We’ll also be sending a dozen kids to camp this summer at Wesley Pines in Copiah County.”

As for how the church is doing, McDonald said they are in the designing phase of rebuilding a new church with architect Amelia Salmon in Natchez. Church members said Vidalia UMC is rising from the ashes stronger than before

“Our attendance has been up, our finances are up and we’re going strong,” McDonald said.