OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) – It’s been a long but healing road for the congregation at Greater Union Baptist.
From losing their church to the hands of an arsonist, to the untimely death of their pastor, to enduring a global pandemic, they are now just months away from their biggest comeback yet. A member of the congregation, Sheryl Richard, tells News Ten, “We are on our way back home. We are on our way back home.”
For over 100 years Greater Union Baptist Church sat on the side of Highway 742. The lot where it stood was left vacant for a while after but there was never a doubt the new church would be erected in the same place on the same grounds. “The congregation decided they wanted to be where they’ve always been,” Richard adds.
In April 2019, 21-year-old Holden Matthews set fire to the church, along with two other predominantly African American churches. Richard continues, “Like the scripture says, we are redeeming what is ours already.”
The congregation carries the memory of their former pastor, Reverend Harry Richard. Richard passed away months after the fire, but his memory continues to play a pivotal role in the comeback. Just weeks ago, the church selected their new leader. “Reverend Patrick Lavergne. He is also an associate minister of Greater Union.” explains Richard.
After the fire, the congregation found their home in other places as they continued Sunday service. Then COVID hit, causing them to look for ways to stay safe but connected. Richard says, “It allowed me to be more creative as a Sunday school teacher. It allowed me to be more creative to reach more people via Facebook.”
Church construction is expected to be finished by June 2022.