Historic Texas Church Burns to the Ground
By Lindsay Peyton
More than 100 years of history and memories went up in smoke on Wednesday, Oct. 16 when Wallace UMC burned to the ground. While the historic church has lost its building, the congregation stands together, mourning the tragedy while stepping forward to build for the future.
When the firemen were finished extinguishing the flames at Wallace UMC, the only thing left standing included a sculpture of the 10 Commandments, a historic marker, a bell from the tower and stairs that used to lead up to the church.
“There were more than 100 years of Baptisms, weddings, funerals, confirmations in that church,” Dr. Mark Young said.
He has led the congregation for the past three and a half years, and a vibrant community gathered for Sunday sermons, usually totaling 40 or 50 people a week.
The church was growing, he added. The last sermon in the space was led by youth, a high school football player took collections next to a third-grade girl. That’s the type of congregation it was, where all ages learned scripture together. They still pulled a rope to ring the bell to announce services.
And there was a deep sense of history in the space, Young explained. “A lot of these old communities started with a school, church and a general store,” he said. “Usually the last symbol left of those early days would be the church.”
A church member alerted him early Wednesday morning that the church was in flames. “You just go,” he said. “I was there off and on all day.”
Afterwards, one of the members invited everyone to their home. “We just sat there and talked, went through our emotions and thoughts,” Young said. “The fire just knocks the wind out of your sails.”
This past Sunday, congregants attended services at a nearby community church. At the end, members piled into their cars and drove to the parking lot of their old church. Young likened the experience to a viewing at a funeral.
“We can experience some feeling of closure, as we move into the future,” he said. “Life is not always fair, but God is always good.”
For his first sermon after the blaze, Young looked at Psalms 71:1-6, describing God’s ability to deliver from despair and to be a refuge.
“We’re coming from a place of despair and darkness, but we don’t stay there,” Young said. “We grieve, we go through all of that, and then we move to praising God and glorifying God.”
Pointing to the statue of the 10 Commandments still standing in front of the ashes, and remembering the youth sermon held last in the sanctuary, Young found powerful symbolism.
“I think it’s significant,” he said. “The youth that led the service, that’s our future. That’s something to hold onto.”
The church will continue its legacy and rebuild.
“We all have setbacks in life,” Young said. “But our faith pulls us out of the ashes.”
To help Wallace UMC, visit GoFundMe www.gofundme.com/f/wallace-umc-relief-fund or donations may be mailed to: Wallace UMC Attn: Rebuild Fund PO Box 174 Canton, Texas 75103.
Editor’s note: It is still unclear what started the fire and there were not any injuries reported.