Congregation worships at historic Fort Mill church week after fire caused $1M in damage

FORT MILL, S.C. — Members of a historic Fort Mill church came together Sunday for service one week after flames ripped through the building.

The fire at Unity Presbyterian Church on Tom Hall Street on Dec. 9 caused about $1 million in damage, fire officials said Tuesday.

Church leaders said they've had to shift some events because of the damage, but Sunday's services went on as normal.

“I told my wife it was important we attend to support the rebuilding process,” said John Proctor, who has been a church member for 22 years.

According to fire officials, the fire was contained to one building that has offices and the senior center, but there is some smoke damage to the original sanctuary that’s attached to it.

The cause of the fire came from a first-story bathroom ventilation fan on the ceiling, officials said.

“I was hoping the older, original church wouldn’t be damaged because that has good memories for us,” Proctor said. “Our children attended services there.”

Six departments and more than 50 firefighters responded to the scene.

The church, which was founded in 1788, did not have services on Dec. 9 because of the weather. No injuries were reported.

“This congregation that has been here 230 years will continue to be here in spite of fire and anything else,” said Senior Associate Pastor Jeannie Bickett.

Interim pastor Mark Diehl said he's still focused on continuing to help those around them.

"Our identity is tied to serving people in the name of Christ,” the pastor said.

Longtime residents in Fort Mill know the church and how it helps the community.

"Such a big part of the community. They do all kinds of good stuff. What I'm sad about is, I'm not sure if it burned or has damage, but the nutrition center," one resident said.

The nutrition center she mentioned is where seniors gather several times a week and Meals on Wheels brings them food.

Firefighters said they did not contact the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which often investigates church fires. They believe this was accidental.

Check back to wsoctv.com for updates on this story.

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