Congregation Carries on After Church Burns

Saint Luke AME Church destroyed by fire.
Saint Luke AME Church destroyed by fire.
This afternoon.
This afternoon.

A shell of a building is all that remains of a historic Savannah church which went up in flames early this morning near Waters Avenue and Wheaton Street at the Saint Luke AME Church on Joe Street.

By the time Savannah firefighters got there, it was too late. Flames engulfed the church. Minutes later, the roof caved in. Investigators were on the scene all day, looking for clues to the cause.

Church members are devastated by the news their beloved building had gone up in flames. It was especially shocking for those who grew up in the church.

It didn't take long for the heavy smoke and flames to spread throughout the building, giving neighbors on Joe Street a rude awakening early this morning.

"I heard a crackling noise," said church member Charles McIntosh. "I thought it was probably somebody trying to break in the back door of the church. And when I looked out, there's all these flames coming out the windows and such."

McIntosh lives less than ten feet from St. Luke, a place he has known his entire life. "I used to go to Sunday school in that church 75 years ago."

But now all he has are those fond memories. Charred ruins now replace the historic building. Congregation members could only watch as investigators picked through the remains of the beloved church.

"When I got the news I came right over," said Rev. James Taylor, the former pastor. "I'm certainly sad to see the destruction."

"It was demolished," said church member Peter Jackson. "It's finished."

Pastor Kenneth Wilson has been the head of Saint Luke AME Church for six years. He says touring the damage was overwhelming, but he's trying to be strong for his 120-member congregation.

"Well, at this time, I'm just going to try to get together with the church," he said. "Try to console them first."

But Pastor Wilson and congregation members say the burned-out building won't stop them from keeping their church and their faith close to their hearts.

"I know that my god is Jehovah and we will be all right," he said. "He will provide."

Pastor Williams is so determined to carry on that Bible study classes are being held tonight at a different location, and services are being planned for Sunday morning.

Reported by: Melanie Ruberti,