Historic Memphis church sanctuary to reopen nearly 12 years after fire destroyed it

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nearly 12 years after it burned down, members of First United Methodist Church in downtown Memphis are putting the finishing touches on their new sanctuary.

This Sunday, the historic church will once again welcome the public into their brand new sanctuary space.

Andy Rambo, Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church, is calling this upcoming Sunday "First Sunday" after the sanctuary burned down in 2006 in a major downtown inferno that started with a construction site spark.

"It's just been exciting to see God use such a small number of people to do such a big thing," Rambo said.

The building itself dates back to the late 1800's. But throughout the devastation, the congregation continued their work with the community.

"Over the last five years, we've been able to partner with a number of different ministries and let them join with us. We've probably had meals served out of here about three or four times a week," Pastor Rambo said.

Rebuilding started and stopped. Then, about five years ago, they received the big donations they needed.

"All on the same day. They gave us $1 million each, so that was a great seed, catalyst and a green light from God that we were supposed to move forward," the pastor said.

Now, the modern steel-beamed open space we see today still holds pieces of the past.

"Well, the building really speaks to that, in that it is un-mistakenly traditional, so we're standing firm on the past and the history, but it's modern and welcoming. It reminds us of moving forward," Rambo said.

The pastor said they've proven it's not the fire that defines his church, but their fellowship.

The church still needs to raise about $500,000 to be fully updated.

Again, the congregation is welcoming people to celebrate with them this Sunday. They will offer coffee at 10 a.m., the service will start at 11 a.m. and a reception will follow.