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After fire, church community endures

In the Fannin County town of Honey Grove, one Ash Wednesday service was different this year.

Main Street Presbyterian Church in Honey Grove was destroyed by a fire early Sunday morning. The church building had stood on Main St. for 110 years.

Wednesday night, the congregation of Main Street Presbyterian joined with the congregation of Mackenzie United Methodist Church, 701 7th St., where the two faith communities joined in prayer and worship Wednesday night. A few dozen worshippers attended a service led by Rev. Vivian Crowson of Mackenzie United Methodist Church and Rev. Ken Sheppard-Mahaffey of Main Street Presbyterian Church.

Mary Snell, an elder in the Main Street Presbyterian congregation, said her husband Ricky’ s great-grandfather helped unload the organ for the church when it rolled into the Honey Grove train depot in 1913. She described  a congregation that’s small in number but rich in tradition and meaning for an extended community that goes beyond Fannin County.

"There are about 60 on our membership roll - some of our members, though, live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and have chosen to keep their membership here, even though they may attend weekly somewhere else. They keep their membership here," Snell said. "It's family...it's home."

The task of leading this faith community out of tragedy is the job of Rev. Ken Sheppard-Mahaffey, who lives in Mesquite and serves as the pastor at Honey Grove.

Rev. Sheppard-Mahaffey said that he and his congregation have been overwhelmed, with not just  sympathy, but offers of material support. He called the response to the fire an "eruption of love and care beyond comprehension."

Ashes from the scene of the fire at Main Street Presbyterian were mingled with ashes from last year's Palm Sunday at Mackenzie United Methodist Church to make the mixture of ashes imposed on the foreheads of attendees at last night's service.

Plans for a temporary house of worship and a new permanent building remain in preliminary stages.

"The church is not a building - a church is people," Snell said. "We're going to be OK."