CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Members of a Lebanon church that was badly damaged by a fire two years ago will soon have a new place to worship.
The former Bethel AME Church was located at 111 North Cherry Street. It suffered a devastating blaze in 2017, leaving the structure that had stood resolutely since 1861 beyond repair.
Only a few items were salvageable after the fire, but the congregation persevered, renting other locations to worship as they worked to identify a site for a new church.
That site is now in the 300 block of North Cherry Street.
Reverend Karen Schaeffer tells FOX19 NOW the land on which the new church will be built belonged both to families that were formerly part of the congregation as well as families that are current members, with some individuals serving as officers.
“The families that once lived on this land are just delighted that the church has an opportunity to build and do ministry here," Schaeffer said.
The groundbreaking will reportedly take place in April. It’s something many in the congregation weren’t sure they would see, which only adds to their enthusiasm.
“We are super, super excited about the fact that we are growing,” Shaeffer said. "We are excited about the fact that we have the relationships that we have in the community. People are being extremely supportive.
The new church, Schaeffer adds, will not just be a place of worship, but a place to serve the community.
“We will have other spaces dedicated to economic renewal in the community and to having space for youth athletics, that sort of thing,” she explained. “So we are really excited about the partnerships that we are developing in the community, to be able to continue to develop those ministries as well.”
Shaeffer says she’s hoping the church will be completed by summer 2021.