- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

NANTY GLO, Pa. (AP) - For the past 15 years, Geno Bartoletti and his wife have designed and created their own Christmas cards, usually depicting something that sums up that particular year - a new grandchild, a special trip or another important life event.

This year, the choice was easy.

On Nov. 8, fire destroyed Nanty Glo First Baptist Church on Second Street, where Bartoletti is pastor.

The 102-year legacy of the church is what Bartoletti said inspired his pen-and-ink drawing for this year’s Christmas card, which shows the church as it appeared in 1948 for its 35th anniversary.

Although the church members plan to rebuild on the same site, Bartoletti said there’s still a feeling of disappointment when the congregation passes by and sees the rubble that remains.

But, on the back of the card is a reminder: “The Church was not defeated and looks forward to rising from the ashes.”

A sign in front of the church in Bartoletti’s drawing even quotes a verse from Psalms that reads, “We went through the fire, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

Since the fire, Nanty Glo First Baptist has been holding combined services with Laurel Mountain Bible Church three miles down the road, where Bartoletti is also pastor.

“It’s been going extremely well,” Bartoletti said. “The cooperation has been wonderful. We have a great crowd coming each Sunday.”

The congregations will also merge for a candlelight Christmas Eve service at 6 p.m. Thursday, featuring music, scripture readings and a “chalk talk” from Bartoletti - where he uses chalk to illustrate a story from the Bible as part of his message.

A state police fire marshal said the fire started on the first floor of the church, but because of extensive damage, an exact cause could not be determined. However, firefighters were able to recover a few items - including Bartoletti’s favorite Bible, a handful of stained-glass windows and another piece of stained glass located above the entrance to the building that reads “First Baptist Church.”

Bartoletti said he hopes to incorporate the salvaged stained glass in the new design of the church. The current site will be demolished after bids are reviewed by church officials.

Inspections and design work will follow before construction on the new church begins.

In the meantime, Bartoletti said he’s excited to start a new year as one congregation, with several new activities and ideas in store. As he said just after the fire, Bartoletti said a building was destroyed, but not the church or its people.

“We know it’s all part of God’s plan,” he said.


Online: https://bit.ly/1NEhPgs


Information from: The Tribune-Democrat, https://www.tribune-democrat.com

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