MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. — A grieving congregation in Mount Holly will honor its pastor Saturday, who died after a house early this week.
Pastor Clayton Burch died Thursday, two days after the fire.
It destroyed a home on the grounds of Goshen Free Will Baptist Church, which Burch led for the last seven years.
The congregation plans to hold a memorial service for Burch Saturday afternoon, starting at 2 p.m.
Burch was seriously injured after a home on the church grounds went up in flames early Tuesday.
Channel 9 learned the pastor was on a ventilator following the fire, so that his organs could help save other lives.
Fire crews were called to the blaze around 3 a.m. at the single-story home next to the Goshen Free Will Baptist Church on West Catawba Avenue, near Pebble Creek Drive and Moses Rhyne Drive.
“I will miss him so much. I have a heavy heart,” church member John Thomas said.
One-by-one, church members of stood to honor Burch, a man of God who was willing to help others.
“He tried his best to reach out to visitors and people here at the church to try their best and make sure their heart is with God. That's the most important thing,” church member Steve Lingerfeld said.
Channel 9 reporter Gina Esposito learned Burch lived in the home with his wife and dog.
(Pastor Clayton Burch, wife Barbara Burch)
Burch has been pastor at Goshen Free Will Baptist for seven years. His wife Barbara Burch was also home at the time and went to the hospital with her husband.
Officials said Barbara was released from the hospital later Tuesday morning and was on her way to see her husband, who was transported to a burn center in Winston-Salem with critical injuries after suffering a heart attack.
"It tore my heart out when I heard about it," friend Mickey Spargo said.
Church members said they were concerned about their pastor.
"He's got a big heart, you know?" said Tyler Sauseto. "He cares about the members of his church."
Family and friends said they are praying for the man who always made time to pray with them when they needed it most.
"He wanted everyone to know that he was praying for you and everything was taken care of,” church member Maddie Gibson said.
"The time I've known him, he really got close to me,” Lingerfeld said. “He helped me through things."
Channel 9 learned that Burch will be an organ donor.
"It's people hurting all over the world, and when you do something like that, you're compensating so someone can have a better life,” Lingerfeld said.
A life that many say the pastor made much better with all the good times they won't soon forget.
"We want to remember him for his bright coats, his singing voice, Elvis impressions and also his loving and caring heart,” Gibson said.
Channel 9 crews could see smoke rising from the building, which had extensive damage. Two vehicles were also destroyed in the fire. Investigators said more than half the building was damaged by the fire.
The fire marshal told Channel 9 that a passerby spotted the flames and stopped to ring the doorbell, alerting the pastor and his wife to get out.
Firefighters said the home did have working smoke detectors.
The fire marshal said it is still too early to tell what caused the fire, but investigators said it does not look suspicious.
Firefighters were able to control the fire in roughly 30 minutes.
West Catawba Avenue was closed while firefighters worked to put out the flames.
A memorial service will be held at the church at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
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