Central City church to rebuild after early morning fire

The New Orleans Fire Department is still trying to figure out exactly how a Central City church fire started.

Firefighters were called out to the Greater St. Matthews Baptist Church in the 1600 block of Rampart Street. Growing the church has been a labor of love for Pastor Cary Payton Sr. and his congregation.

"I simply can't believe it," said Payton. "We were in the middle of renovations. We were doing so many things to turn this church around."

Early Thursday morning, firefighters arrived at the scene to find the church in flames; they say the fire started in the kitchen and spread from there.

"Once the fire got into the open portion of the church, it's kind of difficult to stop the fire," said Capt. Edwin Holmes with New Orleans Fire Department. "It is such a large, open area and there's no way for the fire to stop naturally."

Chairs, pews, drums and organs are now all covered in soot and ash.

The church also feeds the homeless every other week.

"They're going be hurting next Wednesday," said Payton. "Because next Wednesday they would be looking forward to coming in and having a good meal."

The church suffers from extensive smoke and fire damage. On top of that, everything in the church is now sitting in water.

"it does look bad," says church member Jerry-Dean Davis, "but with faith, we're not going to have any problems."

Members know it will be a long road to rebuilding, but this church goes back generations.

"This is a church that has a lot of senior citizens, people who have been here for 30, 40, 50 years," said Payton.

And as soon as everything settles down, member will begin. A clean-up is scheduled for Saturday.

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