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July 4, 2012 was not a very festive holiday for Shawn Amburgey, pastor and leader of the New Beginnings Fellowship Assembly of God Church at 112 East Street.
Though it was day where Americans were celebrating the birth of their country, Amburgey was witnessing the destruction of his church. After firefighters spent three hours fighting the blaze, that Wednesday afternoon the chapel was declared a total loss while the rest of the complex suffered severe smoke damage.
But through the ensuing months, Amburgey and his congregation kept their heads up, planning a rebuild almost from the day it happened.
Though Amburgey managed to keep his congregation together and morale high, the road was not an easy one. Given that it was a church, that called for an arson investigation as a matter of routine, which made Amburgey an automatic suspect.
“Knowing I was innocent, it was still nerve-wracking because sometimes things can be read into and then they are misread. You never know what kind of evidence is out there,” Amburgey said in an earlier article that appeared in the Los Alamos Monitor.
As it turns out, no one had anything to worry about, as the origin of the fire was traced to an aging electrical system. With all that behind him, Amburgey recently updated the Los Alamos Monitor on what’s happened since.
“We’ve been building a building,” he said, with just a hint of excitement and satisfaction in his voice. And he really meant it, too. While he’s had outside help, Amburgey is also a contractor so he and some members from his congregation have been rebuilding everything themselves, board by board.
“We did the interior framing, insulation and we’re actually in the process of hanging sheetrock right now,” he said, adding that next week, they will probably start paint and finishing work.
Not that he’s glad about what happened in July 2012, but if there’s a bright spot to all of this, he said the tragedy and the rebuilding afterward has definitely brought his congregation closer together.
“It’s definitely given our church some ownership of the building, getting some memories of being sore from breaking the sheet rock and doing different things… it’s been good,” he said.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, congregants will be holding a “commitment service” at the church, where they will pray over the buildings and write scripture into the concrete before laying down the carpeting.
Amburgey said the special service would be one time only, as they are still meeting inside the Reel Deal Theater until they receive an official certificate of occupancy from the state. The certificate allows them to use the building on an ongoing basis.
And when will that be? Amburgey estimated at the rate they’re going, they should be holding their first service at the church sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.