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Work begins on Unity church restoration

By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 29, 2021
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Unity United Methodist Church on Depot Street is shown April 29 with a dumpster as workers prepare the building for renovations.

Unity — Restoration efforts are getting underway at the Unity United Methodist Church after a suspicious fire Dec. 28, 2020, damaged the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. A big red dumpster has been parked outside the 180-year-old church on Depot Street, across from the Unity Historical Society, as workers prepare the structure for construction.

In a conversation with The Republican Journal April 28, Pastor Don Banton said he has not heard anything about how the investigation is going.

All smoke-damaged items have been removed from the church and the rooms have been gutted down to the original floors, Banton said.

"They couldn't start the wiring or plumbing until the area was cleared. They are in there right now tearing things up," he said.

Banton, who turns 72 next month, said there has been continuous work at the church since the fire occurred. On a positive note, he said all the ornate stained glass windows at the church are still intact. "It will be months and months," before the church opens for services again, he said, and added that insurance would be paying for everything.

The church fire occurred within a week of two earlier fires in Unity on Turner Court, where a mobile home was destroyed. Authorities arrested Derek Creasy Dec. 30, 2020, and charged him with attempted murder and two counts of arson associated with the two incidents. In an April 13 arraignment, Creasy pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In a prepared statement, Karen Munson, Many Waters district superintendent at The United Methodist Church, said, "We are so grateful for the support from our emergency responders and community members.

"We are relieved that no one was injured," she said. "We are praying for the Unity community.

"The fires have been unsettling for all of us," Munson said. "Although it's difficult to see our church in its current condition, you know that hardship will draw us closer, and that God is with us. Our United Methodist connection also provides support in our recovery process," she said.

Munson added the carillon was recently restored, and as a sign of hope, the bells had rung.

Banton said the small congregation had been attending services on conference calls before the fire, but for the past two weeks has been meeting in person at the Troy Union Church.

The Fire Marshal's Office, which is leading the ongoing investigation, had no further updates pertaining to the church fire as of April 28.

Smoke- and water-damaged debris sits in a dumpster April 28 outside the Unity United Methodist Church on Depot Street. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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