Church holds service after fire destroys building


CHESTERVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Members of a church in Douglas County are left only with memories after their church was destroyed in a fire.

It happened at Sunnyside Mennonite Church in Chesterville early Friday morning. They held their first service since the fire.

Members of the church have a temporary church home. They’re worshipping this Sunday at Arthur Christian School.

“Now, you don’t have a place to go that’s called your own,” says Member Wayne Schrock.

That’s because their own church was destroyed in a fire.

“It was a devastating loss, but the building can be replaced. But it will take some time to rebuild. The damage was extensive and heavy,” says Pastor Larry Rocke.

Flames consumed the place they once called home.

“It was a place where people met God and it was a safe place. It was a place where God touched me many years,” says Rocke.

“That’s where my spiritual journey started. That’s where I met my wife. We got married. My 3 sons were born to the church so it was really devastating,” says Shrock.

The pastor says there’s been an outpouring of support from the community. He’s thankful for all the people who have reached out to help, including first responders.

“That has really been overwhelming to put it mildly. Just because people care,” says Rocke.

He says they’re thinking about rebuilding.

“There’s a lot to consider. What type of building do you go with now – steel or wood?” says Rocke.

Until they figure out the next steps, they are asking people to do one thing.

“Everybody can pray and that is what I’m telling people is to pray for the church. Pray for the community,” says Rocke.

The Arthur Fire Chief says the fire started in the north end of the church. The State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause.

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