Baldwin UMC moves forward after tragic fire
Demolition is progress, church leaders say
— Although no suspects have been identified in the December fire that destroyed Baldwin United Methodist Church, the congregation is moving forward with plans to rebuild.
The first visible sign of that was the start of demolition of the building on Elk
“We’ll take about a week to do what we need to do,” said Dayle A. Charles, senior project manager for Nowland Associates, the Newark, Del., contracting company charged with the rebuild. “What we’re going to do is take it down so it is safe.”
One section of the back wall fell several weeks ago during that series of very cold, windy days, said Patricia Bernal, a member of the rebuilding committee. She was among a group of church members includ- ing Karean Sheldon, Tina Cordill and the Rev. Chuck Rossiter, pastor of Baldwin UMC, who watched and recorded as the bricks tumbled.
The fire was ruled arson by the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal, indicating the fire was intentionally set somewhere inside the almost 50-yearold brick church. Damage was estimated at $800,000.
“We’re going to try to save the foundation of the
existing building so we can reconstruct from them,” Charles said Monday as he
monitored the demolition process.
Mark Gosser, site supervisor, directed heavy equipment operators as walls of red brick fell. It will be his job to salvage 3,000 of those bricks, which the congrega-
tion plans to use for a pathway and a memorial garden, according to Bernal.
“We have several things we can reuse,” Bernal said, adding the congregation would like to return to the building a large cross that
hung over the front door, which was removed ahead of the demolition. “Code is going to dictate what can and can’t be put back.”
Before construction can begin, the remains of the church — including the 1967 cornerstone and the time capsule it holds — must be removed.
“We’re going to take the brick and framing down to the top of the (basement) windows,” Gosser said. “And we’ll remove the ramp.”
“The goal is to reassess and then determine the best path forward,” Charles said.
While a tragedy, the fire has not stopped the small congregation. Church services continue to be held at Singerly Fire Company every Sunday. The 40 active members of the church are wading through all the insurance requirements while planning fundraisers to cover what the policies will not. Bernal said she is not focus- ing on the money, but rather the hope of being back in a church home later this year.
“It will be big and it will be beautiful just like it was before,” she said.
Karean Sheldon, a member of Baldwin United Methodist Church in Elk Mills, records the fire-damaged church’s demolition.
Heavy equipment knocks down the front wall of Baldwin United Methodist Church. The Elk Mills church was the target of arson in December, according to the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal. The congregation is hoping to be able to reuse the foundation of the almost 50-year-old structure.