By Matt Maisel
HARRISBURG – You can take a family out of its church, but you can’t take the church out of its family.
Three days after a fire broke out at the Way of the Cross Church of the Living God on the corner of 16th and Park Streets in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg, its congregation reunited for an evening of celebration.
Nearly 150 people – congregation members estimate their normal Sunday worship gets around 60 – joined at the Church of the Living God on Rolleston Street, a sister church, Sunday evening for dinner and a service to commemorate the church’s 24th pastoral anniversary.
“Buildings can be rebuilt,” Rev. Kevin Wilson exclaimed to the group, many of whom stood and clapped throughout the service. “But when the people of God assemble together, there is sanctuary.”
Three days ago, there was a question where that sanctuary would be.
On Thursday, a fire broke out inside the church, which is over 100 years old. Although it was ruled accidental, the building’s interior was destroyed.
The Rev. Jerome Wilson purchased the church 24 years ago, which has hosted his congregation since.
“So many souls have been transformed. Lives have been changed,” he said.
“And yet, there’s more to do.”
In the aftermath of the fire, focus immediately shifted to Sunday. Wilson’s church was to be celebrating its anniversary, with friends and family, including three of Wilson and his wife Edith’s five children, all of whom lead congregations of their own.
“I went home that night and my wife said, ‘What are we going to do?’” Wilson told Fox43.
“I said, ‘We are going to have it.’”
Rev. Wilson received a call shortly thereafter from Norma Allen, pastor of his sister church, saying his congregation was welcome to hold their festivities at her church.
On Sunday, they arrived at the Church of the Living God, dressed for a party, and plenty of prayer.
The Rev. Kevin Wilson, one of Jerome’s sons, led the service, while his brothers Shawn and Bryan both gave impassioned speeches, and broke the congregation out in song.
“These fires were not of anger or wrath!” exclaimed Pastor Shawn. “These fires were sent for your resurrection!”
Rev. Kevin Wilson followed, “God spared life, and to that, we say thank you!”
Rev. Jerome Wilson and Edith Wilson, also a pastor at the church, were Sunday’s guests of honor. The service was a celebration of their 24 years leading the Way of the Cross Church of the Living God. Moving forward, their biggest challenge as religious leaders might still come.
“We believe the Lord will be with us,” Jerome said, “as he guides us through this storm.”