More than 40 people stood Tuesday among piles of ash and debris that once was the New Life Assembly of God. They had gathered to support Pastor Burton Andrew Ross Jr. and honor him and his family’s 30-plus years of service to the east Florence community.
A fire consumed the church at 610 E. Pine St. around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. Investigators with SLED are working to determine the cause and origin of the fire. No one was injured.
The building was destroyed but by the looks of the congregation that gathered on Tuesday, their faith wasn’t going to be.
Ross said the building embodied decades of “committed, joyful and tireless Christian work in this Florence community.” His sister Jo-ann Ross said she is appreciative of those in the community who attended the gathering in their time of need.
“I’m truly grateful because we have a lot of the community people coming out and showing their support,” Jo-ann said. “It’s quite emotional.”
Jo-ann Ross welled up with tears herself as she talked about the church and how she feels a piece of her father is still connected to the building. Through it all, Jo-ann said, she knows God always has a plan.
“We may not see it at the moment looking at all this rubbish, but I believe in my heart that whatever he does, he does it well and good,” Jo-ann said. “I know God has something better for us. Even in this time of tragedy, I still see the light.”
As Pastor Ross continued his speech, he thanked the Florence Fire Department for their its and experienced response to the fire, as well as the city police officers for the diligence in investigating this case. He also mentioned the crowd of people behind him and spoke of coming reconstruction for the church.
“I look around me and I feel hope, I feel peace,” Ross said. “We want our future plans for rebuilding to be a gift of empowerment and enlightenment of our city by God’s word.”
Ross also quoted his late father, who told him something he said he has since held in great value: “Son, you cannot walk backwards into the future. You must face it head on.”
That’s exactly what Ross plans on doing, with his family, his congregation and the Lord by his side.
“We do not see this situation as hopeless,” Ross said. “We look at the ashes and we see hope.”