Antioch Baptist Church parishioners gather in new sanctuary, celebrate rebuilding following December 2016 fire

Sorrow, fraternity, faith, gratitude, joy — the parishioners of Antioch Baptist Church experienced a variety of emotions after they lost their former church building to a December 2016 fire. They came together to celebrate during their first worship service in the church's newly-completed sanctuary Sunday, April 7.

Pastor Jack Emmite welcomed everyone, saying how the service reflected a joyous result from tragedy. After the fire, volunteers from throughout the country took turns to help build a new church building that is about three times larger than the former structure — helping church members provide more outreach and ministry opportunities in the future.

“It was just a miracle the way that all came together,” church member Marie Stendebach said.

Emmite, his family and fellow parishioners anxiously awaited the milestone. The morning was filled with happiness, but he said a rush of emotion hit him during a hymn.

“I thought, 'Wow, we're actually in here,'” he said. “I was excited to preach and ready to go.”

As he shared his message, Emmite discussed how 2 Corinthians, Chapter 5, Verse 2 is a reminder for people to be “ambassadors for Christ.”

During each week leading up to the April 7 service, congregation members grew closer to one another during Bible study and prayer gatherings. The parishioners were ready to answer the call to reach out to Ralls County residents and invite them to worship as part of a local ministry.

Dr. David Pelletier thanked God for the “victory day,” echoing Emmite's prayer that all the glory belongs to God.

Emmite thanked all of the parishioners who helped during the rebuilding process, the groups of volunteers who constructed the new building, people who donated supplies, Smith Funeral Home and Chapel and the Seventh Day Adventist Church for providing space for worship.

'We're thankful for you all to come out — a lot of folks who have been out here at Antioch years ago and have come back to see us and visit with us,” he said.

His wife, Melinda, said everything came together according to God's plan. “I think it's good to be back home, and be able to reach out to the people for the Lord, reach out with the Gospel,” she said. “It's grown, so I really feel like the Lord had a reason for us to build.”

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com