He paced back and forth. He scurried between the front row of Sunday’s makeshift sanctuary. And then he made his way to the podium, propped in an auto-loan shop’s parking lot as the soot-covered bricks of his charred church building sat to his rear.
“Even as I inhale, I still smell the smoke,” Pastor Carlton Lee said as he began. “But that’s okay. We’re not running.”
Lee, who is the Brown family pastor, fought tears as he deliver the first sermon since his church building was burned — almost completely gutted — as chaos ruled the streets in parts of Ferguson on Monday night.
The emotional service came as fundraising efforts to rebuild have topped $50,000.
“Throw us into the fiery furnace, because one thing I know is that my God will cover us,” said Chanel Lee, the church’s first lady, as she emotionally relayed the Old Testament tale of the three Israelites thrown into king’s furnace after refusing to bow to his idols. “And next time you see a hater, tell them: Don’t kill yourself trying to throw me in the fire!”
The outdoor gathering came just six days after the modest church building used by Lee’s Flood Christian Church congregation was burned. While the fire happened as parts of Ferguson were engulfed in riots and violence after the announcement that a grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, Lee’s church sits far from the other damaged businesses.