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'Thank God we are safe': Fire destroys Clover church fellowship hall

Fire destroys Clover SC church

A Clover church caught fire during an anniversary celebration. The Will of God Ministries fire is believed accidental. Church leaders thank fire and emergency crews for help.
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A Clover church caught fire during an anniversary celebration. The Will of God Ministries fire is believed accidental. Church leaders thank fire and emergency crews for help.

The fellowship hall of a Clover church, which was holding a special anniversary service Sunday, was destroyed in a fire, officials said.

The education building behind the sanctuary at Will of God Ministries on Hampshire Street is a total loss, said Clover Fire Department Chief Charlie Love. The fellowship hall roof caved in, he said.

Food on a stove in the cooking area of the building is believed to have caused the fire, Love said. York County, state and federal officials are investigating.

"It looks accidental," he said.

No one was hurt in the fire, according to Love and Randy Grice, Clover Police Department chief.

The fire started around 4:30 p.m, Love said. The church is one block east of U.S. 321 on the southern edge of the town of Clover.

Yvonne Raymond, one of the church pastors, said members were in the sanctuary, which is in a separate building, celebrating the church's 14th anniversary when the fire started. Church members were in the second service of the day.

"It was devastating to see the fire," Raymond said. "Thank God we are safe."

Raymond praised the dozens of volunteer firefighters who spent hours at the scene, until around 10 p.m.

Bethel, Bethany and York fire departments assisted Clover in fighting the fire. Clover police handled public safety and traffic, Grice said.

"Thank God for the firefighters who helped," Raymond said. "They were so compassionate, so wonderful. I have never seen so many wonderful people trying to help. Everyone was so concerned for our members and our church."

Raymond said the church has insurance.

"God will get us through," Raymond said. "We are strong in our faith."

The church fellowship hall had been decorated for a meal set to follow the afternoon service. The fire damaged the decorations and building. Raymond's son, Rev. Antonio Barnette, a pastor at the church, said the church is the people and God, not the building.

"We can always repace a building," Barnette said. "What is important is no one was hurt."

The York County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the fire. Because the fire happened at a church, State Law Enforcement Division and federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators also were on scene, Love said.

The fire is the second in two weeks that damaged a York County church. Gospel Light Baptist Church's sanctuary in Rock Hill was destroyed earlier in April.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065, @AndrewDysHerald
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