Just a day after fire damaged his North Charleston church, the Rev. Alvin Bonaparte Sr. maintains a spirit of determination.
“Trials will come," said Bonaparte, pastor of Noah's Ark Missionary Baptist Church. "But (Jesus) said, 'Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.' We must be overcomers. The work of the church will not be hindered."
Firefighters responded Sunday afternoon to find Noah's Ark, located on Keever Street, ablaze with heavy smoke coming from the roof, said North Charleston Fire Department spokeswoman Stephanie Julazadeh.
No one was injured in the fire, which left two broken windows and the sanctuary gutted, leaving it not fit to host services, Bonaparte said.
But while the sanctuary is damaged, parishioners won't be without a home. Since the incident, several area congregations and community centers — stretching from North Charleston to Adams Run — have responded by prayers and offering their houses of worship for Noah's Ark to continue its ministry.
Parishioners were touched by the outflow of love and support.
"It makes you feel good when you know the community is there to help you and support you," said longtime Noah's Ark member John Spann.
The fire happened on Palm Sunday, which marks the start of a busy week for congregations as they host a variety of programs and worship services to recount biblical passages of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
Noah's Ark has a special Good Friday service scheduled to remember Jesus' final statements during his crucifixion, as well as an Easter program where youth will offer speeches in honor of the biblical account of Jesus' resurrection.
Bonaparte said the programs will still take place. He doesn't know yet where Noah's Ark worshippers will spend Easter Sunday, but they have a variety of churches to choose from.
Bonaparte also has his sermon ready. He'll use the Gospel of Mark to talk about "the power of the crucified Christ" and relate it to the recent fire.
"Just like death couldn’t keep Jesus, this situation that happened to us will not keep us down," the pastor said.
Advent Lutheran, located on Rivers Avenue, offered its facility to Noah's Ark. In addition to its Lutheran parishioners, the church already accommodates worshippers from Zion Olivet Presbyterian, who moved in years ago when their downtown location closed.
The Rev. Melinda Jones said the building belongs to God, and neither Advent Lutheran nor Zion Olivet.
"It's an opportunity to let someone come into the Master’s house," she said. "The more merrier. We can handle a crowd.”
Noah's Ark has served as an anchor in the North Charleston community for the past 151 years. Members recall vibrant worship experiences where loud voices echoed throughout the sanctuary, thanking God for his blessings.
Today, the church — drawing just over 20 faithful members a Sunday — is one of several on North Charleston's South End serving a community where residents lack nearby resources, such as grocery and drug stores.
Several congregations in the area offer food, clothing, financial assistance and other outreach ministries. Advent Lutheran is in the process of transforming a garage into a day shelter.
While some pastors said the churches don't collaborate as often as they should, they agreed that congregations have to be community-minded.
"We are there to serve the community," Bonaparte said.
Parishioners were attending a Sunday afternoon worship service at Noah's Ark when they smelled smoke in the sanctuary, said Bonaparte, who was at the church at the time of the incident.
Bonoparte said he observed a fire in the choir loft. He and others failed to extinguish it before everyone evacuated as the fire began to spread, the pastor said.
Charleston County dispatch received a call regarding a church fire just after 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Julazadeh said. Fire departments from North Charleston, Charleston and St. Andrews responded to the scene along with Charleston County EMS.
All occupants were out of the church and multiple hose lines were used to extinguish the fire, according to authorities. Three occupants were seen by EMS but refused any medical treatment, authorities said.
Authorities said an investigation of the incident is underway.