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Portland Church Dedicated After Fire - John Dunn

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PORTLAND, Tenn. -- Church members in Portland waited two and a half years for Sunday. It is time to dedicate their new building, after losing the old one in a fire. They have overcome the past, and are focused on the future.

First Free Will Baptist Church always makes time for praise and worship, but on Sunday the Portland congregation had extra motivation. "It's a dream come true to be able to see this done," says Pastor Phil Wilson.

It is hard to imagine what the church looked like back in October 2011. An electrical problem in the attic sparked a fire. The flames could be seen for miles. The church was left in ruin. "To stand by and watch the building that we had prayed for so diligently burn down was just horrible," says song director Kristina Breeden.

Church members told us right away they would rebuild. Former pastor Ken Gregory never doubted it. "If God can raise Christ from the dead, he can raise a church from the ashes, and that's what he has done," says Ken Gregory.

It didn't come easy. The congregation became part of the construction team. A new sanctuary and Sunday school came from their work. "We were here seven days a week. We were here hanging sheetrock, putting up walls, and had a great time doing it," says Gregory.

Now the ribbon is cut, and the church is dedicated. The entire experience brought everyone together. "It helped us realize that the church is just a building, it's the people," says Pastor Wilson.

Members of First Free Will Baptist say buildings may fall, but God and his people stand strong. The Portland congregation continued its celebration after Sunday's service. They ate lunch together, and watched a special concert Sunday afternoon.

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