On Sept. 22, 2017, the Cumberland AME Church in Sampit burned down after a suspected bolt of lightning struck the steeple.

“The church was the center of the community,” said Rev. Effson Bryant, Senior Pastor of Cumberland AME. He is also a Sampit native who attended St. Paul AME, sister church to Cumberland, as youth.

However, the struggles of the congregation to continue meeting only worked to strengthen the bonds of the community.

“It’s not about the physical structure. It’s about the spiritual side,” Rev. Bryant said.

While the Cumberland AME faithfuls have been without a church building to call their own for nearly two years, the Sampit community has shown their spirit in a number of ways, according to Rev. Bryant. It has come in the form of donations. It has come in the form of Saint Michael AME Church which has given them space to hold bible studies and conduct other forms of church business. It has come in the form of Sampit Elementary School which opened their doors for Cumberland’s weekly Sunday services. Rev. Bryant pointed out assistance has come from the “Sampit Circuit” of churches which includes St. Paul AME, Cumberland AME and Trinity AME, as well as a diverse collection of area churches.

“I want to thank all the people for their caring and love and support for Cumberland. We’re thankful for the prayers, contributions and help,” he said. “We are very appreciative of that.”

Despite lacking a physical church to attend, Rev. Bryant said they have been supplied with everything they need. While their tragedy has allowed for the community to serve them and show love, Rev. Bryant is excited to see construction finally underway for their new church building. His congregation has joined him in jubilation.

“I’ve never seen so many big smiles on people’s face in my whole life,” he said.

The Cumberland congregation is anticipating a November time frame for the completion of their new church building. It is being constructed atop the ashes of the old building and will duplicate a similar design as the old building, Rev. Bryant said, albeit a little larger. The new building will have a sanctuary with an increased seating capacity of about 50 percent which equals an estimated total of 300 people. The educational building will also be a little larger.

“We are very blessed by God,” Rev. Bryant said. “We are a people of resurrection. From the ashes we must rise again.”