Jersey City Church Is Reborn

Methodist church reopens after 2001 fire

By Katherine Creag
|  Monday, Apr 18, 2011  |  Updated 10:56 AM EDT
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Jersey City Church Is Reborn

Clair United Methodist Church in Jersey City opens for the first time since 2001 fire

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Palm Sunday brought a new beginning for a Jersey City church destroyed by a fire a decade ago.

It was a long road but finally, Clair United Methodist Church held its first service since April 2001.  The sounds of the choir and piano bounced off the brand new walls. The sun poured through the brand new windows.

"I think it's just beautiful," said Dr. Edith Phillips, a former organist. "In God's name, it's marvelous."

"It's a big day for them," said Pat Williams, a visitor. "It's been a long time coming. A long time."

Lightning struck the church April 10, 2001, sparking a fire that destroyed everything but original brick walls constructed in the 1920s.

"I got married here in 1959, November 14," said Jeanette Cheek Drayton, among the many parishioners heartbroken by the fire.

"We just didn't know what we were going to do at that time," she said.

Days after the fire, with nowhere to hold Easter service, nearby Temple Beth-El opened its doors.

The congregation vowed to rebuild but it took many years. The pastor said the old church was terribly underinsured -- and money was tight.

All the hard work over the decade turned the old ruins into a modern building, featuring wheelchair ramps and elevators. And for those hot summer months, there's now central air conditioning throughout the entire building.

"Awesome, awesome, awesome," said Rev. Hugo Rey, the pastor. "Just glad to offer this place as another place of worship in this loving community."

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