Burlington Township High School welcomes church parishioners in wake of massive fire

Worshippers gathered for the first Sunday service since the massive fire that destroyed the Fountain of Life Center in Florence.

Bob Doda and Samantha Liebman

Mar 26, 2023, 1:51 PM

Updated 477 days ago

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Worshippers gathered for the first Sunday service since the massive fire that destroyed the Fountain of Life Center in Florence.
Helicopter images showed the entire building was engulfed in flames. The Monday evening fire was so severe that a portion of the roof collapsed.
About 50 agencies from around South Jersey and Pennsylvania responded and the fire was put out in about six hours.
Sixty-five percent of the church was saved but the sanctuary where services are held was destroyed. The eight-alarm blaze was one of the largest fires ever in the county. The cause is still under investigation but one of the pastors told News 12 New Jersey that officials have ruled out foul play.
Hundreds of members of the Fountain of Life Center Church gathered at the Burlington Township High School's Performing Arts Center and an overflow room to hear lead pastor Russ Hodgens.
"We can weep and go forward at the same time," Hodges told worshipers. "The church is not the building, the church is not brick and mortar. The church is the body of believers."
While the building was destroyed, the cross on top of it was not. Ten church members were able to salvage it. They brought it to the morning Mass as a reminder for congregants of what is most important to them -- their faith.
"It was strange and different, but we…still felt the presence of God, still felt the unity, so we're just moving from one building to another but still as a church," said parishioner Cathy Kirkland.
"It's not all about the building. It's about the cross that fell on the center of the church. It's like we're carrying the message of the Lord," added churchgoer Obiageli Abeki.
Church leaders were still not sure where services will be held next week, but were grateful for the community support.
"It is a very difficult time. But I know all of the pastors have received an overwhelming amount of support from our entire congregation and the community of this township," said executive pastor Ruben Ramos.
Church leaders vow to rebuild.
"I don't know why this happened. I don't know the whole scope of God's plan, but I do know he can bring beauty out of the ashes," Hodgens told worshipers.


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