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Lebanon Junction church gets lot of support from community

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DENNIE MEMORIAL UMC: Rising from the ashes

By Mary Barczak

 LEBANON JUNCTION - The time has come for new beginnings. 

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It’s been two years since the tragedy, but now it’s time to rebuild. 

Dennie Memorial United Methodist Church broke ground for their new church Jan. 11. The building, which was refuge and home to many, burned down in June 2012.

Pastor Calvin Johnson, better known as Brother Calvin, was away at a conference when he got the call.

“We rushed back...the fire department was still putting out some hot spots,” he said. “A lot of our people moved what they could from the sanctuary, but there was already too much damage from the smoke, fire and water..”

Johnson has been the pastor at Dennie Memorial for about nine years.

But this is the first building that’s been lost in a fire. He said in the 1920s a wood stove caught it on fire and again in the 1970s when there was a problem with the electrical system.

However, the source of the recent fire is still yet to be determined.

Representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on scene after the burning in 2012.

George Huffman, ATF public information officer for the Louisville field division, said the case is still an “ongoing investigation” but he was glad the church was starting to rebuild. He said if anyone has any information about the church being burnt they should call (502) 753-3400.

After the fire, Johnson began to pick up the pieces.

“It was sad,” said the Lebanon Junction resident. "We started the long process of lining everything up we needed to do and started praying and asking God what we needed to do."

The church began to hold monthly fundraisers in the forms of community dinners and auctions to raise $1 million for their new church. So far they’ve raised about $750,000.

They also had some help from across the world in raising that money. Dennie Memorial recently partnered with the Thailand Methodist Mission. The missionaries have set up two "Äúblessing houses" where they bring children they have rescued from sex and drug trade. They have also set up about 20 churches in areas which did not have one before. Dennie Memorial has been supporting their efforts financially for about a year.

Johnson said people there live on about $3 a day. Once the Thailand members heard about the fire they wanted to help and took up a second collection for them. They raised $347 for their efforts.

"It was very humbling," he said. "It’s truly a great blessing."

Once built, the new church will be bigger than the old one--8,000 square feet. Brother Calvin also plans to set up a prayer room, community pantry and library.

"I wanted it to be bigger so we can do more things for the community and kingdom together...," he said. "I’d like to make a place in there for those in the community who might need a place to stay."

The new building will stand on the same site as the old church. Johnson said they discussed it with their members and they felt very strongly it should remain in the same place.

"I think it’s been there for so long, that’s all they can imagine it it would be," he said.

Dennie Memorial was founded in the 1880s in conjunction with First Baptist Church.

The church currently has about 50 members. And even though they haven’t had their own physical building to worship in these past two years, that hasn’t kept their spirits down. One of the local Catholic churches, St. Benedict Parish, let the congregation gather there for awhile and now they are renting an old church on Water Tower Road. They continue to have Sunday services, in addition to numerous other programs such as women’s group and Bible study.

"I’ve felt like I’m on a journey," Johnson said."I ran into different obstacles and I didn’t know why it was happening."

However, despite all of the unfortunate circumstances, the church continued to be involved with the community and make their presence known.

They did senior fruit baskets for the holidays, joined with other local churches for the community Thanksgiving dinner and participated in the revival in the park last July.

The accident, in a way, has turned out to be a blessing in disguise because its helped LJ to grow as a community banded together to help the church.

"The whole community came together and offered us places to worship. It’s been really wonderful to see God’s love through everyone in town," said parishoner Debbie Hinton, who is the leader of lay people at Dennie Memorial.

Hinton, who has been a member for five years, said she thinks the congregation is drawn to Brother Calvin’s caring spirit.

"I think Brother Calvin ministers not only to the people in the church, but he wants the whole community to be one family," she said.

It’s been a "pretty rough" time, said parishioner Mary Lee. But God has comforted them.

"It’s been kind of tough, but we’ve all stayed together and we’ve really come together," said the LJ resident. "In ways it’s more sad, you get up on a Sunday and you go by (where the church was) and its not there anymore..it hurts you."

Lee said the church is a special place for her.

"It’s just the love that’s shown...so many churches you go into and don’t feel that like here," she said. "We’ve been through so much and it’s all coming together now."

The church’s next fundraiser will be a dinner at the community center in LJ Jan. 24 from 11 a.m. To 7 p.m. The meal will be roast pork with fried cabbage, mashed potatoes and cornbread or a roll. Cost is $6. Desserts will be available for purchase for $1 with the proceeds from those items benefiting the church’s benevolence fund.

Those wishing to donate to the church’s fundraising efforts can make a check out to Dennie Memorial United Methodist Church and add ‚Äúfor the building fund‚Äù in the memo line. Send letter addressed to the church to P.O. Box 115 Lebanon Junction, Ky.

Johnson said they anticipate the church to be finished within four to six months.

"We can’t wait to be back to where we belong," he said.