The fire that severely damaged a historic church in Prosper Tuesday afternoon began as an electrical fire in the building's air conditioning system, fire investigators said Wednesday.
It happened at about 1:45 p.m. inside the First Presbyterian Church of Prosper in the 400 block of South Coleman Street.
Fire crews arrived to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the building. They worked quickly to put it out, but the damage to the historic piece of property was already done.
"We’re optimistic, but we’re are definitely saddened by the loss of the memories here. But in the big picture, God is in charge and God’s not done with us and God will lead us to where we need to be," said John Fowler, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Prosper.
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Out front of the church sits a historical marker that reads that the church was organized on July 7, 1978. In 1982 the building was constructed in the Rock Hill Community, but was moved in 1896 and changed to Rock Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It was moved to Prosper in 1902 and has been expanded since then.
The Texas Historical Commission named the church a historical landmark in 2012.
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"We’ve seen a lot of births, a lot of deaths and that kind of thing, and it’s such a historical place," said Martha Hammers, whose been a member for 20 years.
On Wednesday she reflected on all the memories of the church, to even before she started attending.
"The window panes all have dedications on them to certain people and the families probably have been here a while the families have all passed on," she described.
"There was an old Bible inside that sat in front of the pulpit," she reflected "My favorite thing they have is the nativity scene, it’s the figurines are ceramic material and we set that up every Christmas."
She talked about two-foot pump organs that were inside, documents and pictures that are possibly ruined.
"I’m just praying that something can be salvaged," she said.
Fortunately, no one was injured, but the fate of the building is unknown.
“It’s like an old friend has died. It’s really sad," said Hammers.
"It’s significant and serious. Maybe the building will be a total loss, may not be," said Fowler.
Before the official cause of the fire was released, the pastor has his own idea as to who was behind it.
"We ticked Satan off one time too many to burn the house down," he said.
Fowler said they're relying on faith to guide them through the next steps.
“Most important, listen to the Holy Spirit and tell us what to do what we need to be doing next because we are not here just to be here, we are here because God has called us to be at this church and this time and place and God has called us with ministry and a mission and that doesn’t stop," said Fowler. "It’s about the people and it’s about what God has called us to do.”
He said services will continue on Sunday, though they will be virtual only. Fowler said the pandemic prepared them for that.
“If there’s good news, there’s always light in the darkness," said Fowler.
The Town of Prosper's Mayor, David Bristol issued the following statement.
“The Town of Prosper mourns the news of yesterday’s fire at the historic First Presbyterian Church of Prosper. This iconic landmark in downtown Prosper has served as a place of congregation and worship for over 120 years for many of the Prosper community. I’m grateful for the quick response of Prosper Fire Rescue and everyone involved for their efforts to extinguish the fire and salvage the church from further devastation. We are a strong community built on our faith and resiliency and I’m certain that members of the church and the Prosper community will continue to move forward, even through this historic tragedy.”