Greene County church destroyed by fire holds groundbreaking six months later


GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Six months after a fire ripped through a Greene County church the congregation is taking the first step towards a new foundation.

The fire broke out at Union Chapel Free Will Baptist Church on Erwin Highway in May 2021. No one was injured in the fire, but the place of worship for dozens in the community was gone.

Investigators said the cause was undetermined but likely electromechanical in nature.

Dozens of community members came out Sunday to watch the groundbreaking ceremony for the new church.

Photo: WJHL

Services have been held in their separate Fellowship Hall since the fire.

Pastor Lynn Neas is looking forward to the day the blueprints for the new church become a reality.

“It’s been a lot of hardships, but the blessings supersede the difficulties,” Neas said.

Church trustee Eddie Rohrer said he feels hopeful for the new beginning.

“It could have very easily fell apart,” Rohrer said. “We’re coming through with our promise like I said we will rebuild, and I meant what I said.”

Neas said it’s the generosity of the community that’s brought the congregation to this day.

“One man had cancer and drove up and handed me eight dollars,” Neas said. “That’s hard to take that because he probably needed it more, but he said, ‘I want to be a part of that.'”

Neas hopes to finish the project within the next year.

“It’s going to be a metal structure, virtually fire proof,” Neas said. “I told that to my insurance adjuster, he said no such thing, the twin towers burned and that was steel.”

Neas said the cost of the church is expected to be a little over one million dollars.

“It just overwhelms you,” Neas said. “Lived here all my life, but I never knew that many cared.”

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