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Pembroke congregation considering next steps after church fire

Michelle Turcotte | BDN
Michelle Turcotte | BDN
Fire levels the First Baptist Church on Liberty Hill Road in Pembroke on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012.
By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

PEMBROKE, Maine — The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

That’s the attitude being embraced by Gary Kinney, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in the Washington County community of Pembroke, which was destroyed by fire last Monday.

“It was like a death in the family,” he said Saturday of the loss of the 1865 church building on Liberty Hill Road. “There was a a lot of sorrow, but there were some good things, too. Perhaps God has something better in mind.

“There are two ways to look at it — either God thinks we’ve done enough, or he’s thinking that he has something better in mind.”

Kinney met with about 20 members of his congregation two days after the fire at a Wednesday evening prayer meeting at his home. Services on Sunday that were held in the Pembroke Elementary School gymnasium attracted 43 members, which Kinney said was “more than usual.”

“I think they want to rebuild,” Kinney said Sunday afternoon. “We’re in no hurry, and this is an opportunity to trust the Lord.”

Kinney said the building was insured for $440,000, and he’s now negotiating a settlement with the insurer.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, according to State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas.

“There’s more work to do at the scene,” Thomas said Friday. “It remains an active investigation.”

Thomas said the investigation is being complicated by the entire structure now being little more than charred rubble within the church’s basement, which was filled with water by recent heavy rains.

Kinney said he took some comfort in fire investigators determining that a portable electric heater that Kinney thought he might not have unplugged did not spark the blaze.

“I thought I had caused it,” he said Saturday. “I didn’t. They found the heater, and it was unplugged.”

Kinney said he is “very thankful” for the support of the community since the fire.

“All kinds of friends and neighbors and other churches have offered to help and have expressed words of sympathy,” he said.

“The Lord taketh away, but, like Job, in the end, things are even better,” Kinney said.

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