UPDATE – Alberni congregation rallies after fire guts church Tuesday morning

The congregation of Southside Community Church is looking for a place to worship after fire gutted their Alberni church on Tuesday morning.

A fireman douses flames inside the Southside Community Church on Tuesday morning. The church was gutted by the fire and parishners are looking for a new facility to conduct services until the facility is replaced.

A fireman douses flames inside the Southside Community Church on Tuesday morning. The church was gutted by the fire and parishners are looking for a new facility to conduct services until the facility is replaced.

A mid-morning fire Jan. 3 has gutted the Southside Community Church.

Port Alberni Fire Department personnel responded to the call at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Firemen found flames shooting out of an upper floor window nearest 10th Avenue and Neill Street when they arrived.

“It was into the ceiling when we got here and spreading quickly,” assistant fire chief Chris Jancowski said.

With the inside fully involved firemen fought the fire from the outside before entering the building.

Fewer than a dozen children from the Kiwanis Hilton Children’s Centre, which is located across the alley from the church, were evacuated as a safety precaution.

It took firemen about half an hour to bring the blaze under control before they could enter the burned out hulk.

Fire investigators are investigating but it’s too early to cite a cause yet, Jancowski said.

Fire may have damaged the church building but it hasn’t damaged the congregation’s faith, co-pastor Cal Barber said.

“The Lord’s church is the people, the building isn’t the church,” Barber said. “This is not going to set us back.”

Barber co-pastors the church with his wife Melanie.

The church has a congregation of 120 with 50-60 who regularly attend Sunday services and Sunday school. And there are prayer meetings and family nights throughout the week as well.

The fire could have been much worse if it happened on one of those days.

“We had a candlelight service on Christmas Eve that was very well attended and thank goodness it didn’t happen then,” Barber said. “We’re grateful that no one was injured today.”

The building was covered by insurance and Barber will be dealing with that over the next while, he said.

The church previously acquired land for a new facility, but building plans are years away. “We don’t have a definite time line established yet,” Barber said.

Southside Community belongs to the 30-church strong Church of Nazarene. The organization’s district representative was enroute to assist with the situation, Barber said.

With the fire over and the damage surveyed the attention now focuses on practical needs. The church’s board is meeting to discuss getting a place to continue their services; the Bread of Life and Chapel of Memories have offered their facilities, Barber said.

“But we don’t have a place to store things yet.”

The fire is a test of faith, and the congregation’s faith is strong, he said. “There’s more questions right now than answers,” he added. “But this is a walk of faith and we’ll see how the Lord reveals himself to us.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com