Faith overcomes adversity|Congregation and town to dedicate new church with march, celebration

Published 1:06 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

Contributing Editor

Two years after it was destroyed by a fire that was deliberately set, Mount Olive Pentecostal Faith Church in Belhaven is rising from the ashes.
The church’s pastor, Amos Wilson, and congregation will take part in a “grand march” and celebration Aug. 29 to observe the opening of the new church. The march begins at 5:30 p.m. at the C.O. Boyette Civic Center on West Pungo Street, ending at the church at 865 Elm St. Once at the church, which has about 30 members, a prayer vigil will be among the celebration’s events.
Area churches, community organizations and businesses are invited to join the celebration.
“So far, we are expecting all the churches in the area,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he and his congregation are anxious to worship in the new church.
“It means an awful lot, I mean to tell you,” Wilson said about the church being rebuilt. “We knew the day was coming, but it was slow coming. … It’s been a difficult task, but thank the Lord we made it,”
Wilson said support from several communities made rebuilding the church possible.
“We thank the Lord for the community’s support, the people of Belhaven, Pantego and across the river. … Thank God for all the people who have reached out to us from Washington, Greenville and other places. It’s meant a lot to us,” Wilson said.
The church is more than 60 years old.
“The church has been there since 1947,” he said. “I’ve been pastoring for nine years.”
“I think the community gave the church terrific support during this troubling time,” Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal said. “The community is happy to see the church coming back bigger and better than ever. The church has always been an important cornerstone to our community.”
O’Neal, who plans to participate in the celebration, said it means a lot to the town and the church’s congregation to return to the church’s home site after a two-year absence.
The fire was started Aug. 26, 2007, that weekend being the sixth-anniversary observance of Wilson becoming pastor of the church.
The Sunday-night fire that caused at least $100,000 in damage to the church was the result of arson, the State Bureau of Investigation determined at the end of August 2007. Although the exterior of the church appeared slightly damaged, the interior, especially the ceiling, was severely damaged by the blaze.
Two years ago when Wilson learned the fire had been set intentionally, he found that hard to believe.
“I don’t believe that. You would have to be a cold-hearted person,” Wilson said then. “I heard it happened in Greenville. I never dreamed it would happen in Belhaven.”
Although no arrest has been made in the incident, it remains an open case, Wilson said.