Fountain of Life Center marks Easter Sunday as homecoming for hundreds after devastating 8-alarm fire
FLORENCE TWP., N.J. - The Fountain of Life Center, in Burlington County, welcomed members and visitors back on campus after a devastating fire ripped through the church building on March 20.
"The fire was very unfortunate, and it was just great to see everyone in the community come back in, you know, reunite," said Jay Neal.
Firefighters were able to save half of the building used for offices and the Life Center Academy.
In a matter of days, church staff and volunteers retrofitted a basketball court in another building for Sunday services moving forward.
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"Like the Bible tells us, in everything, we should give thanks. We’re grateful we even have the gym," said Aisha Umar.
More than 2,000 members and visitors attended one of the two Easter services.
"We’re just grateful the church is still together," said Stephan Demitro. "It doesn’t matter if it’s in the cathedral or if it’s in here or the school as long as we’re all together."
Amazingly, the church was able to preserve a large cross that was on the steeple of the church that burned.
"The cross that was on the steeple actually fell right into the middle of the sanctuary. It was covered in ashes, covered in dirt and then three of the pastors, myself included, and about ten other volunteers came out to remove the cross from the middle base that it was and we carried it out of the sanctuary," said Executive Pastor Ruben Ramos. "We’re looking at that as an opportunity to remind our people, remind ourselves, of the resurrection power of God."
The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but no foul play is suspected.
Church leadership is now looking at plans to rebuild and they’re looking at a timeline of three years.
"In one half, it’s so rejoiceful to be here back on campus. On the other half, we’re seeing the reminder, the cross is so symbolic. It’s a combination of being happy, but at the same time not forgetting," said Claudia Demitro.