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June 16, 1999






Roof collapses at
Corsicana's
First Baptist Church
___By Dan Martin
___Texas Baptist Communications
___CORSICANA--"We are just thankful that we have a place to meet and that nobody was hurt," Pastor B.F. Risinger said after the roof of historic First Baptist Church of Corsicana collapsed about 8 p.m. Saturday, June 5.
___If the collapse had happened 15 hours later, it would have been tragic, Risinger said,
churchphoto
THE ROOF of First Baptist Church in Corsicana collapsed about 8 p.m. Saturday June 5. Had it happened 15 hours later, more than 600 people would have been in the worship service. (Photo by Loyd Cook, Corsicana Daily Sun
noting that the collapse occurred when no one was in the building.
___But had it happened on Sunday morning, 600 to 650 people would have been in the sanctuary.
___The original 911 call suggested the building was on fire. Still others reported hearing a loud boom and thought there had been an explosion.
___"Our phone rang about 8:15, and one of our members at the grocery store across the street from the church told us the church was on fire," Risinger said. He rushed to the church and found fire trucks and police cars everywhere.
___"What was at first reported as smoke actually was dust," he said.
___The building, which was erected in 1924, had a roof covered with red tile. About 10 years ago, the tile was removed and new felting was put on the roof. The tiles were replaced on the roof, Risinger said.
___While officials declined to speculate on the cause of the collapse, the roof tiles are very heavy, said Carey Ford, minister of education. "Per square foot, they weigh about 1,000 pounds," he told reporters.
___Apparently the beams on the east wall "turned loose," and the roof crashed onto the sanctuary floor below, but did not go all of the way to the basement, Risinger said. "So far, the basement underneath has not been compromised, but it will not be in use for a long, long time."
___A section of the sanctuary right under the balcony was not badly damaged, but all the pews in the center section were "crushed," as were the piano, organ and pulpit, Risinger said.
___The stained glass windows--installed about 25 years ago--are intact, as are the organ pipes. Plans are to wrap the windows and pipes in shrink wrap to preserve them against rain and additional damage.
___Risinger said the sanctuary was refurbished at a cost of $440,000 about three years ago.
___There had been a request to use the church for a wedding on Saturday night, but the church had declined the booking because custodial personnel were getting the facility ready for vacation Bible school, which began the following Monday.
___The organist, who normally practices on Saturday night, had practiced Friday instead.
___"We are just so grateful. If there had been anyone in there, no doubt they would have been killed outright. We are grateful that was not the case," Risinger said.
___Insurance adjusters have made an appraisal of the damage, and Risinger said there is no dollar figure of loss yet. The pastor, who has served the congregation 20 years next month, said he anticipates the repairs will take a "long, long time."
___"I am so proud of our people," he added. "Within an hour and a half they had completely set up the Family Life Center with chairs for the Sunday morning service."
___The pastor said he was starting a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, which he called "A Life Worth Living."
___"I went on with the plans to preach the series. The first sermon was titled 'A God Worth Having.' I told our people that the place where we had gathered to worship is damaged, but thankfully the God we serve is on his throne, and the church is alive and well," he concluded.

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