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Two years after devastating fire, St. Stephen Church and friends celebrate rebirth

  • Friday, November 1, 2013

SCOTT HARPER/TIMES The Rev. Carl Anderson, pastor of St. Stephen AME Church, praises God during a service celebrating the opening of the church's new sanctuary. The church was destroyed by fire two years ago.

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As a group of Front Street residents and business owners begins the grueling task of trying to recover from a devastating fire, another group joined together Sunday to prove it can be done.
On Oct. 23, 2011, fire swept through and destroyed St. Stephen AME Church on Winyah Street. The church was founded in the late 1890s and had been at the corner of Winyah and Kaminski streets since 1902.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 people gathered to dedicate the church’s new facility at 2807 Highmarket St. They packed the new sanctuary, a balcony and the fellowship hall for the service.
The Rev. Carl Anderson, pastor of the church said the new 25,000-square-foot facility that sits on 3.7 acres replaces the 7,500 square-foot facility that was on one acre.
“God is good,” Anderson shouted as the congregation jumped to their feet in praise. “There is truly no one greater.”
The dedication service included greetings from Rev. John Gillison, Edisto District Presiding Elder; Bishop John Smith of Greater Bibleway Church; Rev. Dr. Ronnie Brailsford, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Columbia; and Sen. Yancey McGill.
A message was delivered by Bishop Richard Franklin Norris.
“A couple of years ago we cried over the ashes. Now look what God has done,” Smith said as he inspired the crowd. “God wanted a church on this site.”
Brailsford said the church “will be a place where souls can be saved and delivered.”
Music during the service was presented by the mass choirs of Greater St. Stephen, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist and Duncan United Methodist.
After the fire, Duncan opened its chapel for St. Stephen to use while the rebuilding took place. Duncan members in attendance received a standing ovation Sunday.
“We have bonded,” Anderson said of the two congregations. He said the two churches now have a joint “Fifth Sunday Service.”

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