FRANKLINEVILLE N.C. – Members of the Franklinville United Methodist Church are saving what they can as the church is demolished following a wall collapse last week.
On the night of July 6th, 2023, emergency crews responded to the Franklinville United Methodist Church on S. Main St after receiving a report of a commercial fire. Arriving units reported didn’t find a fire, but rather a partial structure collapse of one of the walls of the church with a strong smell of gas.
Initial reports of the collapse being caused by an explosion from a gas leak were dismissed as the cause. The gas leak was believed to have been triggered by an A/C unit falling onto a gas line during the wall collapse.
The next day two additional sections of the wall also collapsed. “[That] was expected to happen,” said Reverand Michele Hill in an email. “Those falls opened the gaping hole more and took two very old and beautiful stained-glass windows with them.”
Not having a sanctuary isn’t keeping the congregation from holding their usual worship services. “This past Sunday we worshiped in the local park with members from several other United Methodist Churches joining us for support, as well as people from the community. We shared Holy Communion, and it was a lovely experience,” said Rev. Hill.
Until they can get back into the fellowship hall, the church plans to meet at the Franklinville Diner at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.
Many early records for the church have been lost to time, but according to the Town of Franklinville website the history dates to 1839, when Elisha Coffin deeded 1.64 acres to “Trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church…who shall erect thereon a house or place of worship.” Thats old enough to pre-date the town itself which was incorporated from a village to a town by the state legislature in 1847. The organs and chimes were added in 1953.
With that much history in one building the entire town is affected by the church’s demolition. “This church held memories for all: baptisms, recitals, confirmations, weddings, graduations, funerals and so much more. The church was used by the townspeople in many ways through the years,” says Rev Hill.
So far crews have been able to demolish the entire sanctuary, but not before Franklinville Fire fighters were able to save the baptismal font, the Bible, the church bell (which they rang one last time before taking it down), the cross from the steeple, and several stained-glass windows.
A time capsule exists under the steeple that dates to the late 1800’s but church officials aren’t sure if they will ever be able to retrieve it.
“We do plan to rebuild but at this point have no idea what that will look like for us,” says Rev Hill. The church has set up a fund through the United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina for donations.
Rev Hill continues to express her gratitude to the first responders as well as the local community. “We are so grateful for all the first responders who were there that night, specifically the Franklinville Fire Department who has gone was beyond the call of duty.”
HOW TO DONATE
To donate to the Franklinville UMC Relief Fund visit: