The rebirth of a destroyed church

December 20, 2007 3:55:28 PM PST
For more than 120 years the New Greater Mount Pisgah AME Church has been serving South Jersey. Fire destroyed the historic place of worship last year. But on Thursday, a groundbreaking took place at the site where a new sanctuary will rise. It was on June 19, 2006 that the historic church was consumed by fire. It had served the spiritual needs of African Americans in the Haddonfield area for 126 years.

Pastor Mark Anthony Rassmann tells Action News, "We're formed for the need in this community because of the African Americans that were placed her by the Quakers, who were servants of people inside the city of Longside. Knowing that the African American population was growing, there was a need for an African American church."

It was an emotional day for Valerie Arnold. Her mother was a lifelong church member and heartbroken over the fire. She did not live to see this day. She passed away in November. Valerie said with tears in her eyes, "So I know she's looking over right now, and I know that she's a happy soul. Because she wanted nothing but Mount Pisgah to be built."

At 84, Catherine King says she's the congregation's oldest member. "This is a very special day. A happy day, that we see this church be built."

Since the fire, the congregation has worshipped at the Grace Episcopal Church in Haddonfield, but looks forward to its new home and the $700,000 church in 6 months.

"All the church communities collected funds for this church," said Mayor Tish Colombi. "And I think it's so appropriate in this season of Thanksgiving and festivities that we are planting our shovels in the ground."

Bishop Richard Franklin Norris of the First Episcopal District of AME told reporters today, "We stand with great anticipation looking for this church to rise from the ashes and continue to serve this community."

The steeple that was on the original church was saved from fire, restored and will crown the new church when it opens in June.