Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 19, 2012

‘This isn’t gonna slow us down’

Fast action saves Athens church from Christmas catastrophe

Jayson Larson
The Athens Review

ATHENS — The smoke from inside his church was still churning, and all around him, firefighters were bustling around trying to take care of the job at hand.

And there stood the Rev. J. Micheal Cash, proudly talking about his congregation and its philosophy.

Serve the people. Spread God’s love. Tend to one another.

If he was shaken by the fact his church, First Church of the Nazarene, could have burned down Wednesday morning, it sure didn’t show.

“I know the devil likes to stir things up when you’re doing a lot of good, and we’re doing a lot of good,” the Rev. Cash said. “This isn’t gonna slow us down.”

Cash awoke to the sound of an alarm Wednesday morning at his parsonage located next to the church on the corner of Robbins Road and Dul Avriett. He said he initially thought the alarm wasn’t coming from the church, but decided to check anyway.

When he opened the door, smoke began pouring out.

Firefighters from Athens, and then Brownsboro and Payne Springs, hurried to the scene and began dealing with the fire and smoke. Flames were not visible from outside the church, but fire was, indeed, doing major damage on the inside of the building. Traffic heading to nearby South Athens Elementary School was detoured, and Robbins Road was blocked off near the church for a little more than an hour.

Athens Fire Chief John McQueary said his firefighters were still sorting out what happened to cause the fire, but that it seems to have started on a stage inside. The Rev. Cash said he believes it may have been started by something electrical.

By afternoon, the extent of damage was evident, to the tune of thousands of dollars of likely repairs and replacements that will be needed. The sanctuary was totally destroyed by fire, smoke and water. Even so, Cash said he was thankful that nobody was injured in the blaze, including the firefighters who battled it.

Cash said he planned to notify members of his congregation throughout the day Wednesday. The church, which has 115 members on the books, meets Wednesdays and Sundays, but services were not planned for this Wednesday.

“We had already planned to go caroling for some of the shut-in folks around here,” he said, “so we’re OK for tonight at least.”

He then offered to talk more to a reporter at a later time about other good things happening in the church.

“But call me on my cell,” he said with a bit of a sad smirk. “Obviously my office phone is going to be down for a while.”