When I first heard about the fire that hit Red Bank United Methodist Church on June 10, I was quite fearful that the building was going to be destroyed.
While bad, the blaze did not reach the sanctuary and was confined primarily to the Christian Activity Center, with news reports saying the adjacent education wing suffered smoke and water damage.
I grew up in that church and later worshiped there again for nearly 10 years as a married adult before my wife, Laura, felt called to become a United Methodist minister about 10 years ago.
So I certainly felt a connection to the church during the fire, just as the current members, staff and others did.
While the statement is obviously true that the people and not the buildings are most important, a church building that has remained intact can evoke so many positive memories for people. So I was certainly pleased as a former member that the damage was not worse.
In recent days, since news of the fire broke, many of my past memories of the church have come forward. I have thought about growing up there when the Rev. Elton Jones was the minister and he would help me when I was the acolyte.
I also remember attending about that time a Sunday lunch with my family at the parsonage, which was uniquely located on the grounds of the church, near Redding Road.
I also recall an associate minister, the Rev. Norman Holcomb, who kindly encouraged me when I was a teenager, as did a number of the church members. I also remember all the fun I had playing church basketball for the church's team at that age under coach Zack Coley.
I also remember all the positive ministries of the senior ministers who were there when I attended as an adult, including the Rev. Ted Baker, the Rev. Mike Hubble - now the Chattanooga District superintendent - and the late Rev. Rick Howard.
Two or three years after my wife and I were married in 1994, we were taking a Disciple Bible study there, and the class leader, associate minister the Rev. Brenda Holloway, encouraged Laura to become a pastor herself.
Laura had probably been waiting subconsciously for such encouragement, and soon went off to seminary and found her life calling. She eventually became the director of the Holston Conference's Pastoral Counseling Center after serving as a minister at four other United Methodist churches during two appointments.
I felt my own inward nudge about that time as well and began helping serve as a youth counselor and middle school Sunday school teacher. Even though approximately a decade has passed, I have not forgotten David Brackett's great youth gatherings in the loft area above the offices and being introduced for the first time to contemporary Christian music.
I often think of some of those youth, who today are in their 20s. One was my nephew, Logan Julian, who now lives in Utah.
Although Laura and I are in Knoxville now, I happened to come down a few days ago to Chattanooga and stopped by to examine the damage done to the fire. I also took some pictures for a slide show.
I was glad to know the damage was not any worse, and I enjoyed seeing again my dear old church building friend that still means a lot to me.