GATLINBURG, TENN. — Nearly a year and a half since wildfires destroyed their church, Roaring Fork Baptist in Gatlinburg held its first service under a new roof.
Music poured out of the new church Sunday morning for the first time since being rebuilt.
Nearly 200 people, all dressed brightly and singing loudly, were thankful for the work and volunteers that brought them into their new, permanent sanctuary.
It was a day of celebration for members of the congregation, some new, and some almost lifelong members like 94-year-old Lottie Ball.
"Oh, it means a lot to see it rebuilt," Ball said.
16 months in the making, some people traveled for hours from different states just to see Roaring Fork return to its former glory.
Like Cathy Jenkins from South Carolina, who helped rebuild the church last summer with the volunteer group Builders for Christ.
"When I looked around when we first visited for the planning meetings, I thought, I really don't know [about this]," said Jenkins. "But God had His hand in it, and when He puts His hand in something, it's no stopping it."
And she was right. Churchgoers were greeted Sunday with a new energy, and messages of hope for their new home.
"And in this place will I give peace, said the Lord of Hosts," preached Pastor Kim McCroskey. "Father, we love you."
Ball said she'll never forget the old church.
"I said it would never be the same as the old one, but it is," said Ball.
But she and others hope the new sanctuary will be around for a long time.
McKroskey gave this blessing to his congregation Sunday morning:
"God bless us today. Help us today. Give me strength and give me utterance. And for all that's accomplished, we collectively as Your church will give You all the praise and glory. In Jesus' name, amen."
An official dedication for the new church will be held on May 6 at 3 p.m.